Karun Chandhok: Lando Norris will be eyeing Red Bull or Ferrari switch

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris at a press conference. Bahrain February 2023.

McLaren driver Lando Norris at a press conference during pre-season testing. Bahrain February 2023.

After McLaren’s false start to the season, Karun Chandhok reckons Lando Norris’ frustration over his team’s form in Bahrain will have him looking at his options for the future.

Coming out of the pre-season admitting they’d missed the mark with the MCL60’s development, McLaren then tried to downplay the negative headlines that their performance had created.

But a double DNF at the season-opening race on a weekend in which Norris avoided a Q1 exit based on a regulation had pundits laying out their concerns for McLaren.

While Jolyon Palmer says he feels “a bit sad” for Norris running at the back of the pack, Chandhok feels Sunday’s false start could see the driver weighing up his options for the future.

“I tell you who will be thinking about a move to Ferrari or Red Bull though, is young Lando Norris,” he said on the Sky Sports F1 Podcast.

“Looking at where they’re [McLaren] at, and we were talking before the season of McLaren locking him in and Zak [Brown] doing an amazing job of contracting him in for that four-year period.

“I do wonder, and if they’re smart they would have created some sort of exit clauses.

“For example, McLaren don’t finish in the top four of the Constructors’ Championship two years in a row, is there an option for Lando to look elsewhere?

“Because outside of the traditional top three teams, you’ve got Fernando [Alonso] and Lando who are your top two drivers on the grid aren’t they?

“And the fact he [Norris] is fighting to even get a car into Q3, there’s got to be a bit of frustration there I would imagine.”

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Mercedes could also be an option, but only when Hamilton retires

This isn’t the first time Chandhok has predicted that it’s only a matter of time before Norris starts looking at his options.

Speaking ahead of the new season, the former driver said he believed if McLaren couldn’t get it right and Mercedes needed a replacement for Hamilton then Norris would be first in the queue.

“His options are to go to Mercedes when Lewis Hamilton stops because George [Russell] isn’t going anywhere,” Chandhok told Autosport. “He can stay at McLaren I think until that happens basically. I think McLaren can safely hold onto him until that happens.

“But, let’s say we get to the end of this year and Lewis suddenly decides ‘I’ve had enough, I’m gone’.

“Then I feel like it’s going to be quite a complicated process because no doubt about it Lando has got to the number one pick, he’s got to Mercedes’ number one pick to replace Lewis.”

No ‘get-out’ clause in new Norris contract

But Norris to Mercedes or any other team any time before 2026 would be a costly endeavour as McLaren have him under lock and key until then, the team revealing at the time of his most recent extension that there isn’t an exit clause in the deal.

That means any team interested in the six-time podium finisher would have to buy him out, and McLaren aren’t likely to let him go without a fight.

Speaking at the time of his extension a year ago, then team boss Andreas Seidl said: “The beauty of this new agreement that we have in place is that there’s no get-outs, on both sides, which is [an] important message that we wanted to give to the team as well.

“That shows that we’re in this together and that there’s a strong belief from both sides, from our side in the talent Lando is but, at the same time, from Lando’s side in believing that we can actually get there in the next few years.”

Norris, however, hinted that maybe it’s not as water-tight as Seidl would’ve had rivals believe.

“Of course there’s things here and there like there is in every single person’s contract,” said the driver, “but, in terms of my commitment, it is very high. So I’m confident I’ll be here for the next four years.”