Lando Norris described as 'rock star' by Fernando Alonso amid plaudits for F1's in-form McLaren driver
Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris swapped crash helmets in sign of driver respect at the Austrian GP; Norris earns the plaudits from big-name drivers and figures after latest starring drive to podium finish
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 07/07/21 1:08pm
Fernando Alonso described Lando Norris as a "rock star" in the latest big F1 name to praise the in-form McLaren driver, as the pair swapped crash helmets at the Austrian GP.
On his comeback season to the sport after a two-season absence, Alonso has been regularly swapping crash helmets with drivers - the F1 equivalent of shirt swapping in football - as a mark of respect.
The swap with Norris came on the weekend 21-year-old Englishman qualified on the front row for the first time in F1 and then equalled his career-best result of third in the race.
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Writing on the helmet of his that he presented to Norris, who he worked alongside at McLaren in 2018 when the then 18-year-old was the team's reserve driver, Alonso said: "You are a star. A rock star.
"Best of luck for the future Lando."
In his message for the Spaniard, Norris wrote "thanks for teaching me everything when I joined McLaren" alongside a smiley face picture.
Alonso and Norris were also team-mates at the Daytona 24 Hours in 2018.
Norris earned praise from another of the sport's most legendary drivers during the course of last Sunday's race.
After overtaking his young compatriot having followed him for nearly 20 laps, Lewis Hamilton said over the radio Norris was "such a great driver".
Asked for his reaction to the compliment after the race, the McLaren driver told Sky Sports F1: "It's cool. To have that kind of respect and for him to say it, you know, it does mean a lot."
Norris' performance both in Austria and throughout this season so far, his third in F1, have consistently earned him rave reviews.
Ross Brawn, F1's managing director of motorsport who has worked with some of the sport's most legendary drivers, said in his latest F1 column: "[Norris] was highly rated when he arrived in Formula 1 - and is now consistently delivering on that expectation.
"The McLaren driver has been constantly evolving this year and seems to have made a major step. He's an amazing talent. We are blessed with the drivers we have right now. We've got the reference - which is Lewis, and then we have got Max (Verstappen), Lando, George (Russell), Carlos (Sainz), Charles (Leclerc)."
What can Norris achieve at the British GP?
A handful of points behind Red Bull's Sergio Perez and ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas after the season's first nine rounds, Norris will head to his home race at Silverstone next week fourth in the Drivers' Championship.
He ran particularly strongly at both Austrian events, qualifying and finishing in the top five, with McLaren's performance further boosted on the second weekend by car upgrades.
But Norris is staying realistic about their chances of matching that competitiveness at Silverstone, a very different circuit.
"We weren't expecting to be this quick [on Sunday] but the weather, the conditions, some improvements with the car from last weekend…more of that showed today in the race and how much more competitive we were," he told Sky F1.
"On the other hand, I'm not going to get too giddy because I know we're going to go to Silverstone and it's probably going to be a little bit more back to reality. We have always been strong in Austria, every year since my first time coming here in F1, but also Silverstone was not so good for us last season [fifth, ninth and two no-scores across 2020's two races].
"It's not like I want to be negative, but I'm just realistic. I feel like a lot of people are going to expect this every weekend from now on and then complain why we're not quick, but it's more [understanding] why are we fast now and then expect normal things next time."