F1 analyst Peter Windsor has questioned Lando Norris’s decision to “rush into signing” a contract extension at McLaren amid potential openings at Red Bull and Mercedes for 2025.
McLaren announced last month that Norris had committed his long-term future to the team by signing a multi-year extension to his contract, having emerged as one of the outstanding performers of recent years.
Six days later, however, the driver market exploded when Lewis Hamilton announced he will leave Mercedes to partner Charles Leclerc at Ferrari at the end of 2024, creating a vacancy alongside George Russell at the Silver Arrows.
Should Lando Norris have kept his options open?
With Sergio Perez, 34, entering the final year of his Red Bull contract, Norris had been regularly linked with a move to become Max Verstappen’s new team-mate.
However, with Norris now staying at McLaren, reports emerged this week that Williams driver Alex Albon has jumped to the front of the queue for a future Red Bull seat, having reportedly been offered a first option with a view to a three-year contract.
Windsor has been left flabbergasted by Norris’s early decision on his future when he could have been a central figure – attracting interest from all three of the sport’s leading teams – in the driver market.
Speaking via a recent YouTube stream, he said: “Nobody’s talking about this, but why did he rush into signing such a long-term contract with McLaren now?
“He didn’t need to do that.
“It was obvious that McLaren would want to keep him because [McLaren chief executive] Zak Brown’s been supporting him and he’s been part of the Zak Brown thing going back to Formula 3, so that was never going to go away.
“But there were potentially going to be options at Mercedes, Ferrari and maybe Red Bull.
“So if you’re Lando Norris – who’s on everybody’s lips as one of the great stars of the future and you’re a good guy and you race well – why wouldn’t you have kept your options open for at least three or four months until Monaco?
“Why sign now? It hasn’t worked out very well for him, in my opinion.
“He’s got a nice deal with McLaren, but he’s still got Oscar Piastri – who isn’t slow – in the other car and he’s now got no chance of getting the Mercedes drive or the Red Bull drive.
“It’s going to go to Alex Albon. If you’re Lando Norris, you’re thinking: ‘I’m better than Albon, surely, and it looks like he’s going to get the Red Bull drive.’
“I find that a really odd bit of planning. All credit to Zak Brown for pushing Lando into signing as early as he has.
“That’s all I can assume, that Zak made it one of his missions of the winter to get Lando signed up and he’s got him.
“If I was Lando and I’d followed my manager’s advice, I wouldn’t be very impressed, I have to say.
“Why did he do that? Why did he rush into it like that? He doesn’t know how it’s going to work out this year.
“Maybe he thinks – and this is the only thing I can think of – that Piastri’s not easy to beat and he’s quick and he’s going to get better.
“So maybe one of the ways to counter that is to do this nice, long-term deal at McLaren where he’s there as the number-one driver or how he wants to be perceived and that will have a quietening, dampening effect on Oscar Piastri.
“Maybe that’s what he’s thinking and he never thought beyond that in terms of: ‘Wow, I could be in a Mercedes or I could be in a Red Bull.’
“Maybe it’s that? I don’t know.
“Or maybe he just thinks: ‘I like McLaren, it’s how I like to go racing at McLaren, I don’t want to drive for anybody else, they’re a mega team, golf, whatever.'”