Lando Norris could replace Jenson Button as McLaren's third driver
Eric Boullier admits 17-year-old an option to step into reserve driver role; Norris can win European Formula 3 title this weekend.
By Jonathan Green
Last Updated: 30/10/17 12:46pm
Lando Norris is in contention to replace Jenson Button as McLaren's third driver in 2018, racing director Eric Boullier has said.
Button retired from F1 at the end of last season although he remained signed to McLaren as an ambassador and third driver, stepping in to replace Fernando Alonso at May's Monaco GP.
However, he stated his desire at the Japanese GP to return to full-time racing in another category in 2018 which would leave McLaren needing to find a new reserve.
Norris, 17, is on the verge of winning the FIA European Formula 3 title and impressed driving the MCL32 at the Hungary Test in August and Boullier admitted the teenager could step into the third driver role.
"I think Jenson is looking for a full-time racing seat, and obviously we don't have any," Boullier said at Suzuka.
"But he is an ambassador and we would be happy to keep working with him in a role that suits both parties. But as far as racing is concerned we have nothing to offer to him.
"If Jenson has no role here then of course we need a new [reserve] driver. We have to prepare.
"Lando could be one of them. If he wins Formula 3, which is very likely, then he will have enough points to get a superlicence."
Norris holds a 72-point lead at the top of the Formula 3 championship and will wrap up the title this weekend at Hockenheim provided closest rival Maximilian Gunther doesn't win the three races and he scores less than two points.
Lando Norris' career so far
- 2014 - Aged 14, becomes youngest karting world champion by winning the CIK-FIA KF World Championship title, surpassing Lewis Hamilton's record.
- 2015 - Wins British Formula 4 title with eight wins and 14 podium finishes.
- 2016 - Wins Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the Toyota Racing Series Championship in New Zealand.
- 2016 - Wins prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award
- February 2017 - Joins McLaren's Young Driver Programme
- August 2017 - Posts second-fastest time at Hungary test in debut run in MCL32, only behind Sebastian Vettel
Drivers hoping to earn an F1 superlicence must amass 40 points over a three-year period. Norris would receive 30 points for winning the Formula 3 title and that would take him past the threshold.
On his first official day in an F1 car, Norris posted the second-fastest time of the Hungary Test - only behind four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
It was better than any time senior drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne had managed over the Hungarian GP weekend, albeit on the ultrasofts which were not available at the race, and prompted Boullier to label Norris as a "star of the future".
Speaking to Sky F1 at the Italian GP, McLaren executive director Zak Brown said he believed Norris was fast enough to compete in Formula 1 but insisted the team would carefully manage his development.
"Our current plan is to put him in Formula 2 [next year]," said Brown.
"I certainly think he's fast enough to be in Formula 1 but we don't want to rush things.
"He's definitely our star of the future and we won't put him in another Formula 1 team at this point."