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Lando Norris: Should British driver trust McLaren project long term or consider transfer to F1 rivals?

McLaren driver Lando Norris heads into his fifth Formula 1 season in 2023. Still winless, should the Briton stay in Woking or make a move to Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari or Audi? Here, we assess Lando's F1 options...

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David Croft thinks Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris will be asking questions of Mercedes and McLaren about their teams' performance during testing

Lando Norris has one of the longer contracts in Formula 1, and McLaren have never hidden the fact they see the Briton as their long-term franchise star. But are they really the team that will deliver him a title?

Norris, now entering his fifth season in the sport and long hailed as a future champion, looks set for another year in the midfield while seeing a former team-mate in Carlos Sainz, and a former junior-series rival in George Russell, compete at the front. His patience is surely being tested.

"The story at pre-season testing was McLaren might have slipped back even further as we start this season," said Sky Sports F1's David Croft. "And that's a worry for Lando."

So, should he trust the McLaren project and stay, or put his eggs in a rival basket and leave?

We analyse the options for Norris as he looks ahead to 2025...

Stay at McLaren

Lando Norris has a contract with McLaren until the end of 2025
Image: Lando Norris has a contract with McLaren until the end of 2025

Patience can be a virtue in Formula 1 as shown by the current champion Max Verstappen, who went through four and a half seasons before he had a car to fight.

Norris may decide he believes in his team and the new facilities that are coming soon, dealing with short-term frustration in the hope McLaren can eventually get it right.

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At the 2023 car launch, Norris told Sky Sports News' Craig Slater patience "is something that is part of Formula 1".

"It's something I'm a lot more used to now that in my first two seasons of F1," said the McLaren driver.

"The goal is to win a race or a championship and those things take time."

On whether he can achieve his ambition of becoming world champion at McLaren, Norris confirmed he believes in his team.

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Ted Kravitz ranks the F1 teams' chances from worst to best after this year's testing

"I wouldn't have signed such a long contract if I didn't believe in that," he said.

"It's still a big ask - a lot of work to do, a lot of progress to make.

"II have faith at least for 2023 and especially in 2025 that I'll have much better chances than what I have now and what I've had in the previous seasons.

"I would love to achieve it with the team more than anything."

Sky Sports F1's Natalie Pinkham believes Norris "signed for too long, too soon".

"One podium all year - that's not enough for someone of Lando's talent," said Pinkham.

McLaren are hamstrung by the fact they are a customer team - they buy engines from Mercedes and so have to build the car according to the engine they are given.

In the modern era, it has become important for teams to have their own engines in order to compete at the front. It is therefore unsurprising Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Alpine were the leading constructors in the 2022 championship.

McLaren are reportedly in early phase talks with Honda for a reunion at F1's next major rule changes in 2026. Whether that materialises remains to be seen, and following McLaren's unceremonious dumping of the Japanese manufacturer, the Woking-based team might need to go on the charm offensive.

A deal with Honda, or any other engine manufacturer, could potentially give Norris enough of a reason to stick around. Otherwise, the Brit's loyalty may be tested as his eyes begin to wander.

Make a Mercedes move

Lando Norris and George Russell both joined F1 in 2019
Image: Norris and George Russell both joined F1 in 2019

Lewis Hamilton's contract with Mercedes runs until the end of this season, so his F1 future should be clearer by the time Norris' McLaren deal concludes.

But perhaps Mercedes could approach Norris before 2025.

When Nico Rosberg retired in 2016, Mercedes came to a deal with Williams to release Valtteri Bottas from his contract early so that he could join the Silver Arrows, and Norris will naturally be on the list of replacements if Hamilton does hang up his helmet.

Mercedes are a proven winning entity, and almost every driver on the grid would struggle to turn down an offer from team boss Toto Wolff.

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George Russell's W14 brings out the red flag at testing, after what is believed to be a hydraulic issue

By the same token, Norris is hot property and highly rated throughout the paddock, so Mercedes will have him high on their list of potential replacements and could make another blockbuster all-British line-up.

If Norris were to be offered the move, it would be intriguing to see how his rivalry with George Russell would play out as team-mates.

Both drivers are part of the same generation, so could the battle to be Britain's No 1 be to the determent of the team?

Norris may also be wary about stepping into Russell's territory.

Risk it at Red Bull

Max Verstappen  believes Lando Norris is capable of winning championships in F1
Image: Max Verstappen believes Norris is capable of winning championships in F1

Sky Sports F1's Karun Chandhok believes Red Bull "should be going hard to try and buy Lando Norris".

Joining Red Bull could pose a similar risk to that of Mercedes - would Norris be able to win alongside Red Bull's chosen star Max Verstappen?

The answer, if you ask Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon or Sergio Perez, is probably 'no'.

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Sergio Perez puts in the fastest lap of testing on the C4 tyres in his Red Bull

Norris admitted, last season, he spoke to Red Bull among other teams before signing his contract extension with McLaren.

While he admitted he "could be happier" at McLaren with a more competitive car, Norris insisted he prefers the "security" of a long-term deal over the excitement of talks as a soon-to-be free agent.

Security is not something that has been guaranteed for Red Bull drivers over the years with the team making a reputation for cut-throat driver decision-making - perhaps this would be off-putting if Norris were to consider a move.

Find a new home at Ferrari

Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz were teammates for two years at McLaren
Image: Norris and Carlos Sainz were team-mates for two years at McLaren

Ferrari, like all of F1's leading teams, have pinned their colours to their own young hope - Charles Leclerc. Their line-up, however, while strong, does not look secure as their aforementioned rivals.

Leclerc and Sainz's contracts expire at the end of 2024 and there are doubts about both of their futures.

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explains the lack of performance from the W14 on track on Friday

Will Leclerc become disenchanted at a team that has not won a title since 2008? Will Sainz have a similar season to last year and face internal and external pressure?

Despite their trophy drought, few drivers can resist the allure of F1's famous red - even Hamilton has admitted he rues not driving for the Scuderia - and so if Ferrari came calling, it would be tough for Norris to resist.

Realign with Andreas at Audi

Andreas Seidl was Lando Norris' team principal until the end of the 2022 season
Image: Andreas Seidl was Norris' team principal until the end of the 2022 season

Audi coming into F1 is big news as it creates a fifth engine manufacturer in 2026 for Norris to choose.

Norris's former team principal Andreas Seidl is now the CEO of Audi's F1 project, and the Briton is likely to be high on Seidl's list of things he wants to have in place for Audi by the time 2026 comes around.

Norris admitted Sedl's McLaren departure was a "shock", and if he is yet to find success at McLaren when his contract concludes in 2025, might he make the switch to what is currently Alfa Romeo?

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Valtteri Bottas says chief executive Andreas Seidl has a clear vision and is super motivated for the future with Alfa Romeo

Norris will be the experienced team leader at McLaren this year, and so by the time 2026 comes around, his pace, knowledge and leadership will be the perfect fit for the German manufacturer.

Although, Audi have stated their intention of being a front runner in F1 by year three, which will be 2027, when Norris is 27 years of age.

Will Norris want to wait until then to make a title challenge? Aware that he is now in a minority in his generation in being winless, Norris's patience will be diminishing.

Wherever Norris decides his future lies, it is clear the next couple of years will decide his McLaren fate.

Find out how he gets on in the 2023 F1 season on Sky Sports F1, with every race live.

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