Lando Norris’s new "long-term" McLaren deal oddly does little to change his position in Formula 1's driver market.
Prior to the new contract, the question was whether someone (that someone being Red Bull) might write a big enough cheque to extract him from his McLaren deal. That question is left hanging, albeit extended beyond the previous horizon of the end of 2025.
If the deal does include more performance clauses, it might even make it easier for him to get out in the unlikely event he wants to.
McLaren was already out of the 2025 market game, except if the situation were blown apart by a shock Norris buy-out, so nothing changes there. What it does mean, however, is that anybody who had their eye on a possible vacancy in 2026 in the hope Norris might move has to slash the percentage chance of that happening dramatically in their equations.
McLaren would be an attractive destination for any F1 driver, so this move potentially shifts the thinking of those with uncertain futures, in particular Alex Albon and Carlos Sainz.
Both are out of contract at the end of this season and the prospects of them taking a short-term deal that might only cover 2025, already not something either would want, reduced further given the McLaren vacancy that was once possible for ’26 should now be closed off.
It won’t only be Albon and Sainz who this will interest. For any driver with a performance level and reputation good enough to be a credible candidate for a top team, the room to manoeuvre is reduced that little bit more, especially with Charles Leclerc’s long-anticipated new deal now official.
If you're an F1 driver, right now Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari will likely be your four favoured options.
For anyone not locked in for ’25 (Albon and Sainz notably), that means the big red circle will be around Ferrari and Red Bull, while for those contemplating the chessboard for 2026, Mercedes is perhaps of most interest.
This move also slightly increases the interest in Aston Martin as a possible destination. One of the big storylines of this season is likely to be whether Fernando Alonso stays on in 2025. That is a ‘very probably’ right now, but as what happened with Alpine in 2021 proves you can never be completely sure with Alonso.
As for Lance Stroll, much depends on him fulfilling more of his potential to ensure he becomes a genuinely consistent second driver in terms of his points contribution to help strengthen an otherwise familial case for him being in the line-up.
Perhaps the most significant effect will be on Norris himself. He has spoken about the effect of certainty and stability on him and he’s able to join the fortune drivers like Max Verstappen, Leclerc and team-mate Oscar Piastri who have a clear destiny locked in.
But the devil is in the detail and the most significant impact of this new deal might lie in what’s not known. If Norris is smart, he will have given himself at least some leeway to get out of McLaren in the increasingly unlikely event the team doesn’t continue to progress towards regular wins and world championship challenges.
This would allow Norris to have his cake and eat it – show confidence in the team and prove that he’s absolutely with them, while simultaneously ensuring that he’s not trapped if the worst happens.