INTERVIEW: F1 star Lando Norris on his career so far, his ambitions for the future and the Logitech McLaren G Challenge
Fresh off the back of a thrilling performance at the French Grand Prix, the McLaren Racing prodigy sits down for a chat with Tempus
Lando Norris is a busy man. It would be safe to assume that most 21 year olds who are making waves in an active - and hotly contested - Formula One World Championship would find it difficult to make time for an earnest, detailed chat about their career so far, what they believe the future holds for them and their latest e-racing venture.
But this week, just two days after storming to a surprise 5th-place finish at the French Grand Prix, Norris sat down for a chat with Tempus about just that. Here, the young McLaren star, who has risen through the ranks at a remarkable rate, talks about his career ambitions, what he's learned from his peers, and his return to the Logitech McLaren G Challenge, a three-month extravaganza of e-racing featuring thousands of participants from across the globe.
Lando, you're taking part in the Logitech McLaren G Challenge again this year – what do you believe is behind the popularity of the challenge?
"A number of things. One is McLaren. I think anything a Formula One team wants to put on - especially McLaren - to attract anyone that's at home that probably can't afford to go into karting or car racing, it gives them an opportunity to get involved in the sport.
"It's the first proper event that gives anyone in the world a chance to potentially drive a real race car. And I think just the simplicity of it all is another key factor; Logitech is the easiest wheel to just go out and buy and hook up to your computer or your PlayStation and just have a drive. So I think just how easy it is and how simple it is for people to get on and partake in the series is the thing which makes it so good for anyone in the world to have a go at."
Do you feel like it could potentially introduce people to racing in real life?
"Yeah. For a start, more and more of these competitions are offering the winner the chance to have a test in a real race car; there are quite a few professional drivers now who got their first big boost by winning these sorts of competitions. And even for those who aren't necessarily dedicated to driving in real life, just to work with McLaren and use this simulator is still pretty awesome.
"Sometimes people who win don’t want to drive a real race car, they just want to win. But it does give people who can’t afford to get into karting an opportunity because it’s so expensive nowadays. In these competitions, these racers can show their talent to McLaren."
What is it that you're looking forward to the most about this year's edition?
"I'm hoping I can be even more involved in it because I'm a big fan of these kinds of things. I love my sim racing and I have my eSports team so I love getting involved and trying to help out.
"I got to meet the finalists from the last competition and got to see what they went on to do. We had people like Igor Fraga who now races in F3 - he was here this weekend racing on the [French Grand Prix Circuit] Paul Ricard too.
"So I find it quite cool. I obviously don't set any of it up but helping and advising and being part of it and seeing a driver go from driving a simulator to driving a real car - and potentially winning races and going on to maybe one day win a championship of some kind - is really rewarding. I enjoy the experience, so when I get an opportunity to also join in for a race every now and then I definitely do it."
You had an astonishing junior career before being fast tracked by McLaren, what has it been like moving up through the gears of F1?
"You learn things every weekend. My first two seasons of Formula One, I learned a lot from [then-McLaren teammate] Carlos [Sainz Jr.], because he had four years of experience in Formula One at that point. And now I'm in my third year, it feels like I'm almost at that point already.
"But every driver has different characteristics and are different human beings, you know. They think differently, they act differently, they approach things differently. And of course, they drive differently. So learning how [current McLaren teammate] Daniel [Ricciardo] does all these different things compared to Carlos - how he works, how he talks to his engineers, why he is so good at doing things that he does - is a great way to gain experience.
"I learned a lot from Carlos because he was with me for my first two years when there was obviously a much steeper rate of progression. But things are changing for me; I'm coming into my third season feeling more confident already, but then having the addition of a different driver as a teammate and learning some more things is pretty cool. And I'm going to continue to learn more and more from him."
What are your goals for this season and how is this season different from your debut season?
"I wouldn't say I'm a guy that sets too many goals. I prefer taking one race at a time and just try and do the best I can in every race, rather than trying to set expectations.
"But I'm very happy with how the season has gone so far. So I think my goal can be just continuing how I've been doing. At the moment I'm very happy and we've been scoring a lot of points, plus I've been hitting consistent points finishes in every race and am the only driver to do so this year, which is pretty cool.
"A lot has changed compared to year one. One of the biggest things which has changed is just my confidence and experience level. You come into Formula One having to learn so many things and as a result overloading yourself at times.
"I came back for my second year and now for my third year, and every time I gain more confidence. I've gained enough knowledge that before the weekend starts, I'm on the simulator preparing for things - I know exactly what I want to prepare for every time, what things to focus on and how to correct issues that I suffered with in the past. That helps my belief that I can go out and do a good job every weekend while also enjoying it."
You design your own helmets and race gear, can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this?
"I started making designs in school, and even when I was much younger I had always loved art and graphic design. I'm a bit of a computer nerd, so I spent a lot of time gaming and playing on The Sims, but also doing graphic design and using Photoshop. So eventually I got into drawing and colouring and making different helmet designs.
"And to be honest, it all started with [multiple-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino] Rossi. I basically had the same helmet as him when I started. But over the years, I shifted more and more to my own thing and things that I wanted and so on. And especially in karting in the junior formulas, we do a lot of different wacky designs. In karting I could have a different suit for every race weekend and we would change the colours and design, including boots, helmet, stickers and everything. Formula One's obviously a lot more limited, so it's only really designing the helmet that you can do nowadays.
"I'm not doing as much as I did last year but it's just a chance to get to come up with some fun stuff, get the fans involved, work with different artists to come up with unique designs and to create memories. I guess that's one of the biggest things because I keep all of my helmets and it just reminds me of that race. So that's the main reason I do it and it’s just one of the other things that I enjoy doing."
For more information on the Logitech McLaren G Challenge, visit logitechg.com