Norris confirms he is real deal now says McLaren boss


Spielberg (Austria) (AFP)

Lando Norris confirmed he is ‘the real deal’ on Sunday after securing a maiden podium finish by charging to a spectacular third place for McLaren at the Austrian Grand Prix, his team boss Andreas Seidl said Monday.

The 20-year-old racer became the youngest Briton to claim a podium finish and the third youngest in Formula One history as the recently cash-strapped outfit celebrated a magnificent turnaround in their fortunes.

Earlier this year, the once-serial winning team were struggling to survive, but a loan announced last month secured their future and on Sunday they showed the potential to challenge the front runners in this year’s title race.

Seidl heaped praise on Norris not only for his mature driving, but also his hard work and development since his bright rookie season last year.

"For a driver, it is important to create this momentum for himself as it gives him the confidence he needs to pull it off when it matters in qualifying and the race.

"Lando was simply building it up as he started well last year. You could see that last year in his race starts when he started carefully at the beginning and then once he had a bit of confidence and races under his belt, he was there.

"With the work he has done together with his team over the winter, I think he simply made the next step. I am very happy, very happy with the team, so we can have some great results with him in the future."

Norris made sure of his podium when he passed Sergio Perez of Racing Point in the final laps and then attacked to reduce Lewis Hamilton’s on-track time advantage after the six-time champion had been given a five-second penalty.

His success was traced with a little disappointment that it was achieved without any spectators at the Red Bull Ring, including his absent family and friends.

"We can all be happy we’re here racing and that the procedures that are put in place are pretty bulletproof... but it’s a bit different for me,” he said after finishing classified behind victorious Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

"These guys are used to being on the podium quite a bit -- for me it’s my first time! And I think something that makes it so special is always having the crowds there -- celebrating there with you whether they are your fans or not.

"It just makes up the atmosphere so much and it adds a lot of excitement.

"But I know I have many loyal fans watching at home and I know the most important people to me, my family, they’re watching, they’re supporting and they’re living in the moment with me."

Seidl added: "There could be nothing better for the team, especially after this difficult period – and I am looking forward to a celebration despite social distancing."