Column | Lando Norris gets the chance to "level up" his F1 career in 2021

04-01-2021 12:00
Column | Lando Norris gets the chance to level up his F1 career in 2021

2021 was supposed to be a massive year for Formula 1, perhaps the biggest in a generation. The rule and regulation book was set for a reprint as Liberty Media were due to harvest the first crop of fruits from their takeover deal. But those fruits will remain covered whilst the coronavirus pandemic grips the world. 

Still, F1 in 2021 has plenty of narratives for fans to cling to. In this series on GPblog, we take a look at who has a massive 12 months ahead of them in Formula 1. First up, Lando Norris

A big 2021 

During the upcoming season, Lando Norris has the chance to “level up” his career. The impending arrival of an inform Daniel Ricciardo will put pressure on the 21-year-old British driver. 

Over the last two seasons, Norris has been virtually level on both Saturday and Sunday with the slightly more experienced Carlos Sainz. Even though the Spaniard got the promotion to Ferrari, recent form suggests Ricciardo is the better driver. 

The general consensus in 2020 put Ricciardo as the best driver on the grid outside of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. After all, the Australian delivered two podiums for Renault, and he comfortably beat his teammate Esteban Ocon over 17 races. 

And that’s in a Renault. A team McLaren beat by 21 points in the 2020 Constructors’ Championship. 

All eyes on Ricciardo then. The thought and prospect of what he can do in a McLaren, which in itself gets a “level up” with a Mercedes engine, is strong. 

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This is about Lando Norris though? 

Correct. And that’s the point. Expectation tells us that Ricciardo is going to be really strong in the 2021 McLaren. Given how modern Formula 1 works, Norris is going to get measured against the Australian’s performance. 

If Norris matches or beats Ricciardo through the 23 Grands Prix, he more than likely proves that he is one of the best drivers on the grid. Or at least has more potential than we initially thought. 

On the other hand, if Ricciardo dominates the teammate battle as he did against Ocon over the previous 12 months, then that has the potential to derail Norris’ career. At 21, Norris will get plenty of time to recover, but we know how cutthroat modern Formula 1 can be. 

To put it simply Ricciardo’s arrival in 2021 puts Norris at a crossroads. 

McLaren expectation 

With limited changes to the cars over the winter, there’s a general expectation that the order will pretty much stay the same in 2021. At least that’s the case with most teams. 

McLaren don’t fit into that bracket as Ricciardo isn’t the only arrival. A batch of Mercedes F1 engines will be making the 70-mile journey south from Brackley to Woking. That Mercedes engine will surely help the papaya orange team gain at least a couple of tenths around most circuits. 

So maybe there’s a little bit of expectation that McLaren will secure multiple podiums in 2021, and reach Q3 more often than not. It’ll be interesting to see how Norris handles this expectation. 

He will also take a team leadership role, at least in the early part of the season. While Ricciardo has bags more Grand Prix experience, he’s still the new guy. 

GPBlog’s prediction 

On multiple occasions, Norris has demonstrated qualities found in World Champions. The buzz around “last lap Lando” at the start of the 2020 season shows the Brit can perform under pressure and most importantly shows he can do it when it matters most.

Norris was spotted helping mechanics strip down his car after the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix. Not only will he become an appreciated team player, but he’ll learn those little extra details about his car. 

And this year he has the chance to learn from a guy who has stepped on the podium 31 times and is proven Grand Prix winner. We expect him to relish the opportunity. He might get beaten in year one, but he’ll be close to Ricciardo and prove he has the chance to fight for future world titles alongside Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and George Russell

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