LANDO’S F2 CAM­PAIGN

Autosport (UK) - - COVER STORY - JACK BENYON

By his own ad­mis­sion, 2018 has been Lando

Nor­ris’s worst year of rac­ing. The 18-year old is his own big­gest critic, and his abil­ity to sys­tem­at­i­cally break down the pros and cons of his per­for­mance has no doubt con­trib­uted to Mclaren’s de­ci­sion to step him up to its For­mula 1 team in ’19.

On the plus side, Nor­ris has led the cham­pi­onship for longer than any other driver this year and, un­like many be­fore him, has been an in­stant ti­tle con­tender in his first sea­son on the tricky Pirelli tyres. He came straight to F2 from Euro­pean F3 (which he won) and its much more durable Hankook tyres.

On the neg­a­tive side, he has one win to Ge­orge Rus­sell’s five, and is only re­ally still in the hunt thanks to Rus­sell’s myr­iad re­li­a­bil­ity woes. He has also been out­per­formed in the ti­tle run-in by his team-mate Ser­gio Sette Ca­mara, who has beaten him in qual­i­fy­ing for the past four rounds.

One thing is cer­tain: Nor­ris’s con­sis­tency has been key. He didn’t fin­ish out­side the top six – ei­ther in the fea­ture or the re­versed-grid sprint – un­til the 14th race of the year at the Red Bull Ring, ex­clud­ing the first race at Paul Ri­card where F2’s tricky clutch caught him out.

While only one win is a black mark on the copy­book, it’s hardly a de­cid­ing fac­tor on whether Nor­ris is ready to progress. He has con­sis­tently been able to move for­ward in races and, had his qual­i­fy­ing been bet­ter, more wins would have been in the bag. On the Pirellis, pace must be bal­anced against tyre man­age­ment and tyre prepa­ra­tion, with no sen­sors on the car like F1 to give tem­per­a­ture read­outs, mean­ing ev­ery­thing is done on driver feel.

As a rookie, Nor­ris has han­dled the in­tri­ca­cies of F2 com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess­fully. His men­tal strength and abil­ity to look in­ward – with bru­tal hon­esty – to solve prob­lems will serve him well when he hits trou­ble in F1, like ev­ery driver does. That will be cru­cial given that, un­like Lewis Hamil­ton, he is un­likely to be jump­ing into a race-win­ning ma­chine for his rookie cam­paign.

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