Lando Norris interview: ‘In Formula One, you have to be patient... I’m not patient’

Lando Norris interview: ‘In Formula One, you have to be patient... I’m not patient’

Four years to the day, Lando Norris still vividly recalls his first race in Formula One in Australia: the nerves, the pressure, the procedures required in the car and the wait for the lights.

His mind was awash with information, the then teenager’s brain overthinking every aspect of his start. He asked himself if he had flicked the right switches, done his burn-outs, turned recharge off. Then the lights came on — and then off, his foot to the floor amid the roar of the grid.

In two days’ time — in Jeddah, rather than Melbourne — Norris will prepare for more of the same, and ahead of his 84th grand prix start, he has not tired of the sensation.

“It’s such a cool feeling, your foot’s on the throttle, you’re waiting to react and then it just goes,” he says. “It’s still very intense. I still get nervous, but good nerves.

“When the lights come up, you still feel like, ‘here we go’. I don’t think there’s many things that can give the same rush and adrenalin as Formula One.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The hope is that Saudi Arabia goes infinitely better than the season opener in Bahrain two weekends ago, when Norris finished 17th. But after another winter test of struggles at McLaren, it was a result that was, to a certain degree, expected.

He knows it is a waiting game, all part of the team rebuild, to which he signed up with a multi-year deal last season, and which still requires the team’s in-house wind tunnel to come into action — expected some time between June and November this year.

What matters more pertinently are the events of 2024 and 2025 but, at the same time, it is difficult watching his peers, like Max Verstappen, George Russell and Charles Leclerc, all picking up race wins in the past year.

“In Formula One, you have to learn to be patient,” he said. “I’m not the most patient guy. It’s something you have to learn to deal with when you come into the sport. I knew it wasn’t a short-term thing, that I wouldn’t be winning races last year and this year, but I still have the belief and confidence we can do it.

“You can be the best driver in the world and not ever win a race or even get a drive. You have to set your own goals. My goal right now is not to win a race — a win might be a seventh or 10th place. For you, that’s a win on the day. Sure, I want to win races, but I just have to understand in F1 it takes time.”

Norris is the fulcrum to that rebuild, at 23 very clearly the leader alongside rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri.

The idea that he finds himself in a leadership role amuses him. As a child, he was the complete opposite — “I just followed the cool kids around” — but the shift has come partly naturally as he matured, partly by design.

“I’ve always been a quiet and reserved person,” he said. “I’ve opened up a bit more and changed how I work with the team and my role within the team. A bit of that was natural, a bit of it conscious. If I want to be a better driver, I want to work like this, have this demeanour and attitude. All of it’s in a good way and for a good reason.

“More than ever, I want to provide my team with points, podiums, whatever. And the mechanics and engineers want to give me that better car, they want the best pit-stops, because you build up those relationships over time. And, as a driver, I feel as confident as I’ve ever been in my potential.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Missing from the other side of the garage is Daniel Ricciardo, deemed surplus to requirements by the team and bought out of the remainder of his contract.

The pair remain close and exchanged messages during the course of the winter test. But F1 is not always long on sentiment, and Norris knows he and McLaren have to move on.

Everything from within the team, insists Norris, is pointing to getting them back to being one of the most successful teams in F1 history.

The wind tunnel is part of the rebuild, along with ever-improving race strategies and rapid pit-stops. All that remains is one key ingredient.

“Until we have a good car, we have to make sure everything else is performing,” Norris says. “The big one [the good car] is just taking a little bit longer.”