Lando Norris will remain with McLaren next season after the team confirmed on Tuesday that he has passed his ‘probation’ period.
The 19-year-old Brit signed a three-year deal worth £400,000 per season last year, but the Woking-based team had the option to cut that short if he failed to perform.
But Norris has impressed in the first nine races of his rookie season – with four points-scoring finishes putting him eighth in the championship – and McLaren have decided to tie him down.
Coming just days before his maiden home race as an F1 driver – the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend – Norris might be forgiven for pinching himself.
‘It’s going very well,’ he said. ‘I’ve surprised myself with how well I’ve done this season – better than I expected all together in terms of results.
‘I’d give myself a B+ grade. It’s been good, there’s room for improvement but I’ve not made any silly mistakes.
‘It’s good to know that I’ll be here next year, it gives me a bit more confidence knowing they have trust and faith in me.
‘I wasn’t asking for it, I wasn’t worried, but it’s nice to have.’
‘We’re impressed with how Lando has started, he’s got a great future with this team,’ said team principal Andreas Seidl.
‘The work he’s doing outside the car is impressive for a rookie so it was a straightforward decision.
‘As a rookie he had to make it through probation time which he successfully managed, so we wanted to have clarity with the outside world on our line-up.’
Asked if that was because other teams had made enquiries for Norris, CEO Zak Brown confirmed the team’s other driver, Carlos Sainz, was also being retained in 2020, and added: ‘With the driver market going on we wanted to be first team to say what we’re doing and next year was never in doubt.
‘But lots of teams are not happy with their drivers so given how ours are doing it was in our best interests that, as silly season ramps up, they go knocking on some other doors.
‘We have our heads down, we know what we’re doing next year and wanted to eliminate speculation or potential activity.’
Indeed, focus now turns to Silverstone where Norris will look to build on a career-best sixth-place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
That included an opening corner overtake on five-time world champion, current championship leader and compatriot Lewis Hamilton.
‘It was nice,’ said Norris with a smile. ‘I was just frustrated I couldn’t hold on for a couple more laps. It wasn’t that much of a battle but it was nice being in that position – not seeing many cars in front of me – that’s where I want to be in the future.’
The boy from Guildford will not be short of support at Silverstone. He doesn’t expect to be crowd surfing Hamilton-style come Sunday afternoon, but didn’t rule it out in the future if, as expected, a multi-year deal for the Northamptonshire circuit to continue hosting the race is confirmed this week.
‘Everyone’s been after tickets,’ said Norris. ‘Even my hairdresser asked me the other day.
‘Lewis is doing a fine job and I’m sure he’ll be around for a few more years, so I don’t know about the future, I’m just focused on this year.
‘I’ve never tried it (crowd surfing) but I could give it a go in the future.
‘I love the circuit and it’s generally been a reasonably good track for me. It’s good fun and it’s got some nice straights so hopefully we can do some overtaking. Another points finish would be great – that’s the expectation now.’