McLaren CEO Zak Brown has put Lando Norris among the top tier of Formula 1 drivers in his estimations, even with the likes of Fernando Alonso.
Brown partnered a rookie Norris alongside Alonso at the 24 Hours of Daytona before the young Briton had made his Formula 1 debut, with the two sharing a car with Philip Hanson for United Autosports at the legendary endurance race in Florida back in 2018, meaning the McLaren boss could see how both drivers operated in equal machinery.
Alonso is widely regarded as one of the best Formula 1 drivers of all time, and Norris’ reputation over recent seasons has grown exponentially after roundly outperforming multiple race winner Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren over the past two years, gaining multiple podiums along the way.
Given the rate of improvement he has shown in his time in Formula 1, Norris is now rated among the top talents in the sport, but the McLaren boss feels this has been the case since before he even made it into the team.
“I think he is as good as anyone on the grid and I’ve felt that from day one when I put him against Fernando in the 24 Hours of Daytona, foreign car, foreign track,” Brown told ESPN.
“I think Fernando is as good as any F1 driver there’s every been… and Lando matches him, and depending on what time of day it was, maybe he even got him a little bit, and vice versa.
“You see that natural talent. You do get some drivers who are a one-make discipline and you throw them in a unique situation and they don’t get up to speed as quickly.”
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McLaren have a wide range of racing interests, through IndyCar, Formula E, Extreme E and more, and Brown thinks Norris has enough natural skill to be able to jump into any kind of machinery and be one of the quickest drivers out there.
He admitted that the 23-year-old is looking to push the team on as he searches for an elusive first victory in the sport, having been on the podium six times, and that he hopes not to see his peers win too many more times before he notches his first P1 finish in Formula 1.
“Lando’s a franchise driver,” Brown stated. “Lando’s one of those guys if we put everyone in a dirt buggy and we put all the F1 drivers in a race, he’d be at the front because he’s got that kind of natural talent. He’s a total star, and he’s pushing us.
“He wants to be winning races, I’m sure he knows he can beat George [Russell] and he has beaten George before… and he goes out and wins.
“He’s going to be anxious people he’s raced with don’t get too many more wins before he starts getting his.”