Formula 1

Norris had to stop Red Bull F1 switch rumours he 'enjoyed'

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Quashing rumours of a shock Red Bull switch is one of the motives behind Lando Norris's new long-term commitment to McLaren's Formula 1 team.

Stake

Norris has removed himself from what's expected to be a very volatile F1 driver market for the next couple of years by signing a new multi-year contract with McLaren.

He remains convinced that McLaren will provide him with the best chance of winning regularly and fighting for championships in the long-term.

That's despite consistent speculation that Red Bull would be interested in hiring Norris to partner Max Verstappen, having struggled to find him a reliably strong-performing team-mate since Daniel Ricciardo left at the end of 2018.

And even though Norris has only ever raced for McLaren since making his F1 debut in 2019, Red Bull's interest pre-dates that.

Red Bull considered him to replace Brendon Hartley at Toro Rosso in 2018, when Norris was only in his rookie Formula 2 season, and that interest was key in McLaren swiftly promoting Norris for 2019.

Since then, Red Bull is believed to have made at least a couple of inquiries and it was widely felt in the F1 paddock last year, when Sergio Perez started to struggle alongside Verstappen, that Red Bull would love to have Norris as his replacement.

Norris is a good friend of Verstappen’s and his adaptability would seemingly make him very compatible with Verstappen on a technical level too.

'Enjoying' Red Bull switch rumours

Although Red Bull played down any direct interest in trying to sign Norris, even last year it was never shy about talking him up. And with the end of Norris’s contract in 2025 creeping closer, even though it wasn’t imminent, the prospect of McLaren losing him did at least seem like a real threat to consider when coupled with its drop in form in 2022 and miserable start to 2023.

But McLaren's miraculous mid-2023 transformation, as well as its significant off-track investment and new infrastructure, convinced Norris to stay put - avoiding placing McLaren in an awkward position where it would have either had to accept losing him after 2025, or cash in and let him go early for an acceptable level of compensation.

That doesn’t matter now and while Norris revealed he's quite enjoyed the speculation linking him to the likes of Red Bull, he understands it’s not good for the team to see suggestions one of its drivers may leave or want to leave.

"I've enjoyed them to be honest," Norris said when asked about the rumours over his future in recent years.

"It’s not so much for me, I’m always focused on what I need to be focused on.

"I'm sure when you work here and you have one of your drivers and you see them being linked to other teams, that’s just probably never an easy thing to see, and you probably question it at times.

"So from my side to give everyone here at McLaren just that bit more confidence within me and show my confidence in the whole team, I think that’s probably the most important thing and the thing I’m happiest about with getting a contract out.

"They’re now even more assured that I’m committed to the team and saying that, over, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, whatever team it could’ve been...they now have that reassurance that I picked McLaren over all of them.

"So I think it’s more for them than it is for myself and all these things because I do enjoy seeing the rumours and the conspiracies every now and then."

Why Norris doesn't think this is a gamble

With brand-new car and engine regulations for 2026 threatening a major shake-up in the pecking order, committing long-term to any F1 team right now might seem like a gamble.

Has Norris guaranteed himself his best shot at winning - or has he locked himself out of exploring better options?

Norris is convinced that re-signing with McLaren is the former as he is happy at McLaren, feels like part of the family, and is utterly convinced by its trajectory.

“The atmosphere, the mentality, the camaraderie that we have here has built up over the years and I enjoy being part of that," Norris said.

Under the leadership of Andrea Stella, McLaren enjoyed an in-season renaissance that was almost unprecedented in modern F1. That meant 2023 became Norris’s best season in F1 to date, despite it starting so badly.

Stella’s technical reshuffle in 2023 helped jolt McLaren out of a lethargy that seemed to set in while it waited for a new windtunnel and simulator to be ready. What was so impressive about last year is that McLaren turned its fortunes around using the same technical and human resources that it had previously underperformed with.

Norris has been massively encouraged by that. But it’s not the only thing that’s convinced him. The new windtunnel and simulator are now online, and new recruits have joined from Ferrari (David Sanchez) and Red Bull (Rob Marshall).

The existing staff has been massively energised and Norris said there’s a feeling among the team’s workers that’s on another level to what he has previously experienced.

"It's just everything that goes on day-to-day [that's convinced me to stay], the people that are here, the work ethic, the mentality, the approach to everything," Norris added.

"And you also know what other teams are doing and how they're looking and how they're feeling and what their potentials are at the same time with what drivers they’ve got, what people they’ve got, and so on.

"Really nothing from any other side was convincing enough to ever want to make me even have a proper look at another team."

That belief is reflected in the swiftness of Norris's new commitment, a near 24 months before the expiry of his previous deal.

He has deliberately removed himself from the driver market saga, giving him security and clarity, and letting McLaren know that he is fully committed.

And it means both sides can focus fully on maintaining McLaren’s upward curve over the next couple of seasons - then hit the new rules in 2026 as hard as possible, without any contractual question marks hanging over them.

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