‘Jude Bellingham of the F1 transfer market’ teased as potential Audi target

Jamie Woodhouse
The rear wing of Audi's F1 car.

Audi, coming to an F1 track near you.

Sky F1 reporter Craig Slater believes Lando Norris, Formula 1’s equivalent in the transfer market to Jude Bellingham, could be of interest for Audi as they prepare to join the grid in 2026.

Norris is contracted to his current team McLaren until the end of 2025, meaning his current deal will expire before the new generation of challengers and power units come into force for the following season, when a motorsport powerhouse will also join the fray.

Audi have struck a deal with Sauber which will see the team transformed into the Audi works squad, running their power unit, from 2026, leading to plenty of speculation already over which drivers will form that first Audi line-up.

Lando Norris a future Audi driver?

Slater claimed that if Norris were a footballer, then he would be in the “100 million category”, likening him to Bellingham who recently signed for Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund for a fee in that region plus add-ons.

Norris would command a fee should any team look to release him from his McLaren deal early, Red Bull having repeatedly stated that they could see Norris factoring into their future, though Slater does not see a team currently which would need to stump up the cash to bring Norris in for 2025 or earlier.

So, looking beyond that, is this where Audi come in?

“Lando Norris, he’s the Jude Bellingham of Formula 1 in transfer terms,” said Slater. “If he were a footballer, I think he’d be in the 100 million category. He’s young, he’s talented, he’s marketable as well.

“Consider another couple of factors, he is McLaren’s senior driver now, he is in his sixth year at the team. Five years as an F1 driver, but he had been in development terms before that as well. He’s the leader of the team.

“The other big question in terms of what his transfer value is, does he have a release clause in his contract? Not to my knowledge, to any great degree, which means anyone wanting to sign him up would have to pay top dollar for his services.

“Are McLaren ready to let him go? Absolutely not. Is there a team out there that desperately needs to sign Lando Norris? Well maybe not right now. Ferrari seem to be well enough covered, Mercedes look like they’ll continue to work with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell for the years ahead. And Max Verstappen is firmly ensconced at Red Bull.

“Audi could be interesting in a couple of years’ time. When they come into Formula 1, they will want a big name to be the face of their team. Might Lando Norris fit the bill in that regard? Might he link up again with this former boss at McLaren Andreas Seidl? But a lot of depends on where McLaren are at in a couple of years.”

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And it is safe to say that the signs are currently very positive, with McLaren’s mighty development programme for the MCL60 having fired it into podium contention, Norris now claiming four P2 finishes across the F1 2023 campaign so far.

So, with the future looking bright for the team, Slater said Norris is showing little sign of wanting to head for the McLaren exit door during his current deal.

Slater added: “Lando, speaking to him face-to-face, I have no reason to doubt what he says, he says he’s fully prepared to see out this contract and he’s ready to wait, even if it takes to the last year of his contract for McLaren to be ready to fight for wins, and maybe championships.

“In F1, we don’t often see teams chasing after drivers. More often the driver is chasing after the fast car. I think that’s going to be the case for Lando Norris too.”

Norris and team-mate Oscar Piastri have Aston Martin and their P4 spot in the F1 2023 Constructors’ Championship in their sights, the gap currently 49 points.

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