Driver Predictions: Why Norris and Ricciardo are the perfect combination for McLaren in the years to come
McLaren’s upward trajectory since 2017 has been remarkable. An unexpected 3rd place in the championship in 2020 proved the development they’ve made from the 9th place they achieved in 2017, and they look to have a competitive car in 2021 too. This upward trajectory led to the signing of 7x race winner, Daniel Ricciardo, after Carlos Sainz departed for Ferrari. This is a man who still has big ambitions in F1, despite not reaching the desired success at Renault, and could potentially lead them for a 1st race win since 2012 – a genuine possibility in 2021.
Written by Danny Jones, edited by Janvi Unni
The long term protégé of the McLaren driver programme, Lando Norris, has proved no slouch either. His immense 2020 performances, which have been backed up by 2021 podiums in Imola and Monaco, supported the incredible faith McLaren have in him. McLaren believes this to be a line-up that can take them back to the glory they all desire, with a mix of youth and experience, and seem to be wanting to keep both drivers long-term.
If one does suddenly end their contract early, it could prove an issue for McLaren, due to having no junior drivers in single-seaters, and little F1-Worthy affiliated with the team. Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries are the team’s reserve drivers, and would have an outside chance at a seat, should one become available, both ex-McLaren academy members, both are immensely quick, but Formula E and other F1 reserve commitments may make it difficult for them to join the frame.
McLaren’s involvement in the IndyCar series has also provided them with other options, if needed, notably in Patricio O’Ward. The 22-year-old Mexican has proved immensely quick in IndyCar, and his race win at Texas has provided him with an opportunity to test for McLaren at the Abu Dhabi test, at the end of the season. Even though talk of a future seat was talked down by O’Ward and McLaren, he would remain a viable option for the team and would be a serious option if Ricciardo or Norris move on in the next couple of seasons.
However, it seems Ricciardo and Norris are committed in the long run, and with both having 2022 contracts, it would be unlikely to see one go. McLaren’s strong relationship with Norris means that he could be there for many years to come, should his rapid progression continue. Ricciardo’s experience and speed are also critical for McLaren’s development, meaning he and Norris are the perfect combination for 2022 and beyond.