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Formula 1

The reason Norris helps McLaren take his F1 car apart post-race

by Matt Beer
6 min read

McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris helps take his car apart after grands prix for fun and team building, an act that stretches back beyond his post-Hungarian Grand Prix assistance.

Norris was pictured on Sunday evening in Budapest helping his team with the breakdown of his MCL35 at the end of a triple-header of races that finally started the 2020 season, in which team personnel had to abide by very strict protocols away from the track.

They spent two weeks in their own bubble in Austria before moving onto Hungary, where UK passport holders had to observe even more harsh restrictions, only leave their accommodation to head to the track.

Norris’s act after the race received great attention on social media, and speaking to select media including The Race this week he said it was a long-running act that had multiple benefits.

“There’s two reasons really, one is because I enjoy it,” he said.

“ It’s just quite cool you know, who wouldn’t want to go and take apart a Formula 1 car and get to explore it a bit and work with mechanics and so on?

“It’s just good fun. And you learn something new about and it’s just a bit more hands on.

“And two, it’s good for the team, it’s good for myself and my mechanics that we’re working together.

“I’m helping them, it makes their job much easier, they’ve just done the whole race weekend. They did three weeks in a row. And I thought I can just help them and make their lives a little bit easier.

“It’s not something I chose to do just because we did three weeks in a row, because it’s something I’ve done several times before, it’s more the fact of just helping them anyway, me enjoying it, getting to spend some time.

“We have some good laughs. We have some jokes. And I enjoy spending time and working with the mechanics and the engineers. Because Will, my engineer, does it too.”

Norris explained that it has been quite a regular part of his time at McLaren and actually dates back to a habit he picked up in karting.

“I think it’s a crucial part of getting to know them and improving our atmosphere as a team,” :: Lando Norris

“It’s something I’ve done quite a few times before,” he said.

“It’s just never gone on social media, it’s not something that I feel like I need to put on social media.

“It’s something I did already in 2018, or something I’ve done since karting really.

“In karting we used to always have to post-race clean all the karts and the chain guard and the airbox and the majority of things.

“And it’s something I’ve always kind of enjoyed doing. It’s something I loved doing as a kid taking things apart and so on.

“And I’ve kind of done that, all the way through, in some ways, from karting to F1.”

Lando Norris McLaren F1 2020

Norris started driving regularly for McLaren in F1 in 2018, taking part in free practice sessions as he initially bid for a race seat, then to prepare him for his debut in 2019.

The Briton says that is when the process of working with the team’s mechanics on a Sunday evening began.

“I guess in F1 it’s a bit different because it’s something I’ve done since 2018,” he said.

“So when I was doing some of the FP1s, so in like America, Japan, Mexico, Abu Dhabi I think too in 18, and in 2019, I did it sometimes.

“I haven’t done it every time. But it’s more often when my flight is on a Monday, so a lot of the time flights are on a Sunday evening, and you have your thing and it’s timed, you have your debriefs and everything and you go to the airport and you’re on the way home.

“Whereas, the times when it’s on the Monday or the next day then I get the opportunity to stay with the mechanics and go and help them out.”

He said it had been an effective way to integrate with the team and build a personal rapport.

“I think it’s a crucial part of getting to know them and improving our atmosphere as a team,” he said.

“And because I enjoy it, and it’s good fun.

“The only other thing I would be doing is going back laying in my bed and watching Netflix, and I prefer to take apart a Formula 1 car than to do that.”

Lando Norris McLaren Hungary F1 2020

Norris’s humanity is an underrated quality

Lando Norris has his critics. You probably don’t need to look too far to find someone condemning the 20-year-old for being born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

Apparently, this is a valid stick with which to beat him with. Fortunately, most tend to judge him on his driving ability, and though he still has his doubters there, Norris is doing a lot to show he could well be the real deal.

But circling back to Norris as an individual, not as a racing driver, McLaren and F1 may have a gem on their hands.

Norris was born into privilege. But privilege and decency are not mutually exclusive.

It would be too far to laud him as a hero for picking up a spanner or a screwdriver on a Sunday evening, but I believe it’s a sincere and respectful gesture and a sign of a very underrated quality

It’s all too easy these days to criticise F1 drivers for having it easy and being pampered. Generally, the sacrifices they do make come with a very nice lifestyle.

But being well-off doesn’t make someone a bad person and at a time like this, where teams are going to be stretched to their limits (and maybe beyond) because of the aggressive calendar, F1 will be better off for people like Norris using their voices to highlight the treatment of those at the coalface.

On Saturday in Budapest, more than 24 hours before the photo emerged, Norris was asked about the impact of a triple-header, but he flipped the focus onto team personnel.

Lando Norris McLaren Hungary F1 2020

“Honestly for the drivers it’s not too bad,” he said. “In some ways we do the least amount of work in terms of being at the track, compared to the time mechanics spend working on the car and building it, and management and engineers spend at the race track.

“I feel like I’m fit enough that I can go out and do the race and I’m not completely dead after it and feeling like it’s gonna take ages to recover so I’m not that concerned from my side.

“It is tougher for the engineers and the mechanics, because they’re the guys and girls who spend the most time at the track working and traveling.

“I’m fine, but it’s more of a question for them and trying to look after them and keep them in the best condition.”

Compare that to the actions of others amid the massive restrictions personnel faced over the triple-header and the COVID-19 restrictions, when some drivers jetted off home to Monaco between the two Austria races for a nice break while their team members had to make do in a mini-lockdown.

I’ve known Norris since his Ginetta Junior days, and he always came across as a respectful, considerate young man. Clearly, he is maturing into a respectful, considerate adult.

I don’t know what the mechanics within the team think about it. Maybe they could find it patronising or exploitative, done for some kind of PR gain. But I doubt it. I hope not, anyway. He’s done it before without going fishing for validation on social media.

It would be too far to laud him as a hero for picking up a spanner or a screwdriver on a Sunday evening, but I believe it’s a sincere and respectful gesture and a sign of a very underrated quality.

F1 drivers are adored because they seem to be superheroes. But there’s a lot to be said for the moments they show themselves to be human.

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