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In-form Norris keen to give home crowd spectacle to savour at Silverstone
F1 Sport

In-form Norris keen to give home crowd spectacle to savour at Silverstone

One of Lando Norris’s endearing qualities is his willingness to open up, to be, well, himself, an increasingly rare trait in Formula One. It is this candour, as the huge numbers of fans at the British Grand Prix supporting him will attest, that makes him one of the sport’s most popular drivers.

Norris cuts a relaxed figure as he speaks in the McLaren motorhome, the 24-year-old thoughtful and typically honest as he considers how close friends have come to play a crucial role for a kid who grew up in something of a bubble. “It’s quite a lonely life,” he says.

“I’m not complaining. It’s a lonely life because I grew up in the middle of nowhere. I was a loner, so I was happy to go and play on my simulator all day. I chose that route. Then all the years of growing up, you don’t stay in a team for more than a year so you never have time to build much of a connection with anyone. I know in F1 you don’t know who to trust, it’s a very different lifestyle.”

However, those friends are clearly vital in ensuring he remains grounded amid the F1 circus. “That’s what I think I have my friends for and the people around me. I’m very happy when they tell me I’m being an absolute knob,” he says with a smile. “They give me a sense of normality.”

Norris is riding the crest of a wave, exhibiting the form of his career in the best car he has had the chance to drive. Now McLaren have given him the tools to do the job, he is delivering on the promise he has always shown. The clear rival to Max Verstappen for the drivers’ title, he goes into Sunday’s British GP, once Lewis Hamilton’s fiefdom, for the first time as the favourite to deliver a win for the home crowd.

Norris is an interesting character on many levels. On the track, his driving is hard to ignore. He is controlled and measured when he needs to be, demonstrating an appreciation of the bigger picture of maximising what is available rather than sacrificing places in the heat of the moment. He also has a delicate touch on his tyres and knows how to eke out the best from them, an art that is vital in modern F1.

Crucially, when given free rein, he has an exciting, full-blooded style, unafraid to make moves when he has the bit between his teeth, as he demonstrated at Imola, Barcelona and Austria. Since his debut win in Miami earlier this year, he has been clear that where once a podium was a high, now only a place on the top step will do.

Lando Norris is lifted by his team after winning the Miami Grand Prix on 5 May 2024View image in fullscreen

Norris is honest when holding his hands up to errors on track, an unusual trait where absolute conviction is all but dogma. He is self-critical, a self-admittedly glass half-empty person, yet warm and witty and engaging too. He is generous with his time for fans and appreciative of them too, perhaps because deep down there is still a little disbelief that he is the subject of such affection.

“I do appreciate it as much as I can because I still find it odd that I just drive a car and people support me,” he says. “I find it a weird concept, of me just being a normal person who drives a car quickly and people cheer me on for that … I appreciate it, I don’t know how I can show it in many ways.”

What concerns Norris most is that he is not reciprocating sufficiently on this support, as ever expecting more from himself.

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He is also a young man growing up in public with all that entails. He enjoys going out to dinner or clubs but pictures or videos get taken and assumptions are then made. So increasingly Norris ends up not actually going out because he faces enough scrutiny already for what he does on track, with social media having become vituperative.

Lando Norris greets fans outside the paddock during practice ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on 5 July 2024View image in fullscreen

“You don’t want to deal with things which cause stress and pressure,” he says. “Everything I do already is stressful enough. I still have to go out and perform and do my job every day. As soon as I have one bad day in the job, I get criticised to hell.”

Which is about as vehement as Norris gets outside a car on the baggage of going racing. That is something he will put out of his mind when the visor comes down on Sunday, but on the way there, well, he will, of course, enjoy the special moments that matter.

“I stay in the hotel at the track and its easy just to walk over the bridge [to the paddock] but I am happy to drive round,” he says. “Because I get that feeling of everyone, seeing people in my shirts, my hats, that just excites me in the morning, these guys are here to support me and cheer me on – that puts me in the mood.”

Source: theguardian.com