THE BRITS ON THE WAY UP

ILOTT AND NOR­RIS AIM TO RULE F3

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - Jack Cozens CV

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ehind Lando Nor­ris’s seem­ingly end­less as­cent through the ju­nior rac­ing ranks, there’s been a very method­olog­i­cal ap­proach to map­ping out his fu­ture steps.

“We de­cided – me and my man­age­ment team – that it was the best thing to take time and learn every­thing,” says the 17-year-old. “Ob­vi­ously Max Ver­stap­pen was a one-off; he went straight into F3 and then to F1 in two years, and it prob­a­bly won’t be done again – it can’t be done again at the mo­ment be­cause of the [Su­per­li­cence points] rules brought in as a re­sult.”

And that ap­proach has cer­tainly paid off so far. Save for a full cam­paign in Ginetta Ju­nior – where he was third in his first year of car rac­ing – and BRDC Bri­tish F3 in 2016, in which he only con­tested a half-sea­son, Nor­ris has won every­thing he’s done. MSA For­mula? Check. For­mula Re­nault Eurocup and NEC? Com­pleted it. Toy­ota Rac­ing Se­ries? You can even chuck the Mclaren Au­tosport BRDC Award in there – you get the idea…

For all Nor­ris’s re­mark­able achieve­ments so far, though, there’s an or­di­nary teenager – one who’s aware of his lim­i­ta­tions and very pa­tient, both in pro­file and in his quest to reach the top.

His next step will no doubt be the high­est-pro­file one of his ca­reer – a move into Euro­pean For­mula 3. His deal to race in the se­ries with Car­lin was one of the worst kept se­crets of the off-sea­son, with Nor­ris ad­mit­ting there was only one win­ner when it came to de­cid­ing on his 2017 di­rec­tion.

“At the start of 2016, be­fore we de­cided to do For­mula Re­nault, there was the pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing F3. But we de­cided to do an­other learn­ing year, in Re­nault, and then move up. It was 99 per cent, al­ways go­ing to be For­mula 3; ob­vi­ously there was a bit of talk about pos­si­bly do­ing GP3 in­stead, but we found that F3 was prob­a­bly the best route to go down.

“There’s so much track time,” he con­tin­ues, at length, about the pros of an F3 cam­paign. “I’m still not the best driver I can be so the more time I can spend on track the more I can im­prove.

“You’re not in front of F1, go­ing around with them, but just as many driv­ers have come out of F3 and gone into a ju­nior team or done some­thing like Este­ban Ocon or Ver­stap­pen and then gone straight into F1.

“There’s a lot of com­peti­tors that we know are go­ing to be do­ing it and GP3 is ob­vi­ously a bit tricky. A lot of peo­ple have told me the car is not great to drive, and you have very lim­ited track time and at odd hours. For all of those rea­sons, F3 was the best choice.”

There’s a state­ment buried in there that should strike fear into his ri­vals’ hearts. Given his pre­vi­ous record, Nor­ris’s in­sis­tence that there’s more to come not only shows a grounded in­di­vid­ual fo­cused on achiev­ing the best he can, but one who’s likely to be­come more of a threat through­out the year.

And it’s a chal­lenge he’ll be as well pre­pared for as a rookie can be. An ex­ten­sive spell of test­ing at the back end of 2016 was a good start, but Nor­ris will head to the Sil­ver­stone opener not only with knowl­edge of the cir­cuit he’ll race on – some­thing he won’t be able to say all too of­ten this year – but, cru­cially, with a cou­ple of week­ends of full-fat F3 ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt al­ready, hav­ing com­peted at the Euro­pean fi­nale at Hock­en­heim and in the Ma­cau Grand Prix last year with Car­lin.

“Def­i­nitely do­ing those two events was of huge ben­e­fit,” he says. “I got to know how the race week­ends op­er­ate and what the rou­tines are like – just the sim­ple things like that. It’ll give me a slight ad­van­tage over the other rook­ies go­ing into the first week­end.

“Ma­cau was com­pletely dif­fer­ent once again; we were in a new car, on dif­fer­ent tyres, and the track was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to any­thing that I’d ever driven be­fore. That again showed how hard it was to be fast and just proved you have to be very ac­cu­rate to be at the top. But they were two great week­ends of learn­ing and then ob­vi­ously we tried to do as much as we could do un­til the test­ing ban started.

“That’s gone re­ally well – it’s hard to know what you’re like com­pared to any of the other teams be­cause you could be run­ning heavy with fuel or bal­last or the en­gine could be turned all the way down. The prepa­ra­tion has been good, but we’ve got a few tracks to go to be­fore the new sea­son starts.”

And so, to the 2017 sea­son. There was no hold­ing back when his deal was fi­nally an­nounced (“My aim is sim­ple and the same as at the start of ev­ery sea­son – I want to win the cham­pi­onship ti­tle out­right”). But while he’s bullish about his hopes, Nor­ris, who tested with Prema be­fore de­cid­ing Car­lin was the ‘log­i­cal choice’ for 2017, is aware that the Euro­pean F3 cam­paign will be his tough­est yet – but knows he’ll con­test it with­out the favourite tag.

“With Car­lin we had the con­fi­dence that we’d be able to im­prove the car. I know ev­ery­one in the team hav­ing been with them for the past two years, so as well as my two team-mates we feel con­fi­dent in push­ing the car, the team and the engi­neers to be bet­ter so that we’re able to take Prema on and go rac­ing with them.

“If you had two cars that were no dif­fer­ent – which in the­ory is the case in F3 – and one team you knew and one you didn’t, you’d al­ways go with the team you knew. That’s a big part; you al­ways feel com­fort­able and at home, es­pe­cially be­cause it’s an English-based team – that means I can go to the work­shop quite of­ten. You know what ques­tions you can ask, whereas when you go into a new team some­times you think ‘I don’t know if I can ask this’. Go­ing with Car­lin was the right choice.

“I don’t think I’m go­ing to be cham­pion, but that’s ob­vi­ously the aim. I won last year, so ex­pec­ta­tions are for me to win again. I be­lieve I’m good enough to win, but go­ing against the peo­ple like Jake Hughes or Cal­lum Ilott who have years of ex­pe­ri­ence al­ready [and] they’ve been to all of the tracks we’re go­ing to, and I’ve never been to some.

“It’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be the hard­est year of all so far, but I feel con­fi­dent – es­pe­cially with Car­lin – that we’re able to im­prove the car enough to be able to bat­tle with Prema, and con­fi­dent that we’ll be able to beat them.

“As long as we can get a good start early enough that’s where we can be strong.”

Euro­pean F3 will be an­other step on the path to what Nor­ris ul­ti­mately hopes – and many other ex­pect – will lead to a drive in For­mula 1.

There’s still a long way to go, and suc­cess this year by no means guar­an­tees his fu­ture pres­ence in the pin­na­cle of motorsport. But 2017 does pro­vide Nor­ris a great op­por­tu­nity to thrive, with­out the pres­sure of be­ing ti­tle favourite. ■

Nor­ris has shone in ju­nior se­ries so far Dal­lara F3 ma­chin­ery is next for Nor­ris to con­quer

Brit raced in 2016 Euro F3 fi­nale

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