Some describe him as a ‘gifted karter.’ Others call him a prodigy who was destined to make it to F1. Quite frankly, 21-year-old Lando Norris, born in Britain, but brought up by pure unadulterated passion for racing is one of the best things to have happened to Formula 1 in a long time.
In a sport where we’ve heard parallel narratives such as, ‘there’s no place for old drivers,’ as well as ‘the sport belongs to experienced drivers, not only to the exuberance of the youth,’ Lando Norris lends a new-found normality to dated cliches.
Not every young driver is just about rampant aggression on the track
Fiery on the track but not disrespecting of the others, goofy in mannerisms not handling of the car, Norris is more than some pocket rocket in a fast car.
Mature beyond his age, yet just a boy barely out of his teens, the man who famously said of the ‘Iceman’ that “Kimi’s one of the guys who made Formula 1 what it is,” is himself one of the youngsters who’s making F1 what it truly is.
A triumph of the youth, a voyage for the calm-headed
On the exact same grid where Verstappen brings fieriness and great speed one which Hamilton stylises with his wealth of experience and exemplary consistency, Lando Norris upholds the promise of the youth.
And he is playing an important role in furthering discussion about a sport that finds itself so caught up by numbers.
Norris’ penchant for getting the best of out his car has redirected the attention of authors, critics, fans and avid F1 lovers toward that aspect of an F1 driver that can go a long way in making him a racer.
Maturity beyond years
Does that mean Norris has never complained or cribbed about a situation? Heck, it’s a 21 year old we are talking about who’s sung, perhaps multiple times, “Roller Coaster” over the team radio during important qualifying sessions.
But singing didn’t take anyone to a human rights violation centre not that Norris’ singing talent warrants him a space in the all-time list of Grammy-winners.
But the ability to stay calm during tricky qualifying battles and 7go on an all-out attack mode during race days has meant that the just out of his twenties driver can hold his nerve against the veterans on the grid who bring the redoubtable quality of experience not Norris’ strongest ally.
Though where the Briton is concerned, then great things have already started to happen for a driver who beat the Racing Points in a final lap battle at Austria (2020), has already collected 5 podiums from 52 starts and hours back, secured a sensational maiden pole.
A new narrative
When the circus arrived recently at Sochi amid the popular narrative involving the Verstappen versus Hamilton duel, the familiar strong point of discussion, Lando Norris came out of nowhere and helped us get a real hang of the facts.
That the sport is more than the Red Bull versus Mercedes fight, endlessly interesting and dramatic that it may be.
That Formula 1 isn’t just a hobbit of two of the strongest constructors on the grid; rather it is also a vehicle to celebrate the return of a much-loved constructor to the top step.
After Daniel Ricciardo returned to winning ways- and for the first time in over three years in F1- in a McLaren, but not after enduring a seriously low patch, the Australian’s teammate has only heightened the curiosity attached with the Russian GP of 2021.
Not exactly the greatest racing venue as per fans. Not necessarily a track that suits a Ferrari or a McLaren.
And yet to see not a Red Bull or Mercedes, but a McLaren start from the front of the grid is every bit as exciting as it is soothing to the intrepid motorsports fan.
It also tells us why one mustn’t restrict his or her attention to the sport’s biggest hitmakers alone.
That for every Verstappen there’s a Leclerc and for every Hamilton there’s still a Vettel plus Alonso on the grid to speak of competition.
And that F1, beyond anything under the sun, still loves to stun audiences by delivering pleasantly surprising results.
It would only be a fool’s errand to undermine the roaring young McLaren driver.
But to have denied former teammate (and present competitor) Calos Sainz jr the stop step of the evening at a track where he the British driver’s bagged a best-finish of nothing better than P8, Lando Norris’ big moment is here.
It wants us to offer a pat on the back of a driver whose goofiness and funny antics off the grid at times hijack the serious talk his journey beckons.
The conqueror of a very wet Russian GP qualifying, the guy who once experienced tears of laughter in a media presser with the topic of discussion being the ‘moustache.’
But what pleases the McLaren fan more isn’t just the fact that Lando Norris has done something no McLaren driver managed in nearly a decade worth of wait, which is a pole for the English team.
But the fact that on a Sunday that could so easily have been- and could still likely be- another instance of Hammertime versus the Bull run, Lando Norris has put in absolutely everything to turn heads around in Putin territory.
And it’s by sheer uncompromising resolve, much of which has been evident during qualifying days in 2021 that Norris has done his bit.
Though it’s only half the job done when it comes to Formula 1!
Saturday negotiated safely with a ballsy 1:41:993 with Sunday left to play, it may seem like a straightforward march to a win but will be anything but.
Verstappen will drive with a vengeance, Hamilton with the idea to engage in damage control, his Mercedes beginning from fourth on the grid.
Meanwhile, Sainz would like to have a great tow to the car in front, one that can be expected to give us a great Grand Prix to remember, the venue earning the ire of fans over the years for producing undramatic and even, uninteresting races.
Though one’s sure that whatever happens in the next few hours, Norris’s talent (11 top ten finishes in 1st F1 season, 2019) will make do for what’s often lacked here in Sochi- wheel-to-wheel battles and the triumph of any other team outside of the Mercedes.
Here’s what the McLaren driver exclaimed about his magnificent Q3 effort that earned him a maiden pole:
‘The difficult thing is that it is 10 of the best people in the world trying to put these laps in.’
Sometimes you have to push it over and find out whether you’ve made it once you’ve gone through the corner. There were quite a few corners where I thought: ‘I might have gone in a bit hard here and this all could go rather wrong.’ But it didn’t. That’s just the level you’ve got to be at to be in this position, so I’m happy I took those risks and made those decisions because they paid off,’ shared Norris.