Motor racing: McLaren put 18-year-old Briton Norris on the F1 grid to replace Belgian Vandoorne

McLaren's British test driver Lando Norris will be the second Briton on the 2019 grid after world champion Lewis Hamilton.
McLaren's British test driver Lando Norris will be the second Briton on the 2019 grid after world champion Lewis Hamilton.PHOTO: AFP

MONZA, ITALY (AFP, REUTERS) - British 18-year-old Lando Norris has been given a dream contract to race in Formula One with McLaren from 2019, replacing the departing Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, the team said on Monday (Sept 3).

"Lando will partner Spaniard Carlos Sainz, 23, at McLaren in 2019, as part of a multi-year agreement with the team," they said.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has already announced his departure, with compatriot coming in from Renault.

Other candidates for Vandoorne's place had been Frenchman Esteban Ocon and his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez, the Mexican who raced for McLaren in 2013.

The tone of the statement suggested Vandoorne had secured a position elsewhere. "I'm very grateful to McLaren for investing their faith in me over the past five years," he said.

"I joined McLaren as a young driver and have since seen my career progress with the team," he said. "Whilst we haven't enjoyed the success we'd all hoped for, I've really enjoyed the past two seasons racing for McLaren and I have a great relationship with everyone in the team."

Norris will be the second Briton on the 2019 grid after world champion Lewis Hamilton. "To be announced as a race driver for McLaren is a dream come true. Although I've been part of the team for a while now, this is a special moment, one I could only hope would become reality," he said.

"I'd like to thank the whole team for this amazing opportunity and for believing in me. "I'm also extremely grateful for the commitment McLaren has already shown in my development, allowing me to build my experience in a Formula 1 car in both testing and on Fridays during the past two race weekends.

"I'll also be working closely with McLaren at every opportunity to learn as much as possible from the drivers, engineers and mechanics to give myself the best preparation ahead of next year."

Norris has been part of the McLaren young driver programme since early 2017, when he officially joined the team as test and simulator driver. Since then, he has regularly conducted race simulation work for the team and also participated in Formula One testing - in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and Spain and Hungary in 2018.

Last year, he contested the European Formula Three Championship, which he won at the first attempt.

Norris currently sits second in the Formula Two championship, having won on his debut from pole position, with four races from two events remaining.

"We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we've very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason," McLaren CEO Zak Brown said.

"We already know he's fast, he learns quickly, and has a mature head on his young shoulders. We see much potential for our future together."