From The Grid: Lando Norris - The Next Lewis Hamilton?
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
British racing driver Lando Norris is only 17 years old and barely on the public's radar outside the motorsport world, but he has already had a highly successful on-track career and could well become the next Lewis Hamilton as he continues to progress through the ranks towards the peak of world motor racing, Formula 1.
I mention this now as Norris has claimed the 2017 Formula 3 European Championship title at the Hockenheim circuit in mid-Germany with two races to spare.
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He had to overcome a quality grid of drivers, including Mick Schumacher (son of seven times Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher), Pedro Piquet (son of triple F1 champion Nelson Piquet) and Harrison Newey (son of leading F1 aerodynamicist Adrian Newey).
Let's just backtrack briefly beyond Norris' previous karting achievements to his single-seater racing car successes in the two years leading up to this season:
MSA Formula champion
Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion
Formula Renault 2.0 NEC champion
Toyota Racing Series champion
Winner of the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award
Lando is already on the books of the famous McLaren F1 team and their racing director Eric Boullier described him as "a potential star of the future" after he performed very impressively when testing the current McLaren car at the Hungaroring following this summer's Hungarian Grand Prix there.
The team very much believes in his outstanding talent, but is being careful to manage his future cautiously due to his relatively tender years. It is not for nothing that the world of Formula 1 is often referred to as "the Piranha Club" as it attracts so many of the best young racers, but sometimes also ends their top level careers in an at times seemingly fickle and premature manner.
So, rather than being hurried towards a possible Formula 1 debut in 2018, Norris is likely to race in the Formula 2 championship next year, probably for the leading F2 Prema team. Just one step below F1, his ultimate target just as it is for so many other promising drivers.
He may well be joined in Formula 2 next year by another highly impressive young British driver, 19 year old George Russell, who just a week ago at the Spanish Jerez circuit near Cadiz claimed this season's GP3 title, a high profile championship which sits just below Formula 2. Another young British racer coming through the ranks is 18 year old Callum Ilott, who finished a very creditable fourth in the same European Formula 3 championship Norris has just won.
Lando, George and Callum are all exceptionally gifted young drivers with likeable personalities, so let's wish them all well for next year and hope that one or more of them can then progress into Formula 1. Of the three, Norris is probably best positioned to do so, such is the extent of his undoubted promise behind the wheel.
British fans can rest assured that the future of single-seater racing is very bright with this trio of rising stars and before long Lando Norris and perhaps George Russell and Callum Ilott too could well become household names around the world just like our current multiple Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton. With an unforgettable name and a youthful charm, Lando in particular has an exciting future ahead, so keep an eye out for him.
From The Grid: Lando Norris - The Next Lewis Hamilton?, 15th October 2017, 14:14 PM