Lando Norris has opened up about the mental anxiety he suffered during his first season of Formula 1 racing.
The McLaren driver was only 19 when, after finishing in the Formula 2 Championship, he found himself making his F1 debut for one of the most iconic constructors on the grid.
Although he scored points, finishing sixth in Bahrain, in only his second race in motorsport’s most prestigious series, and went on to finish 11th in the World Championship, Norris still struggled to come to terms with his position in the spotlight.
In an article entitled ‘Can We Just Talk?’ on the McLaren website, highlighting the work of mental health charity Mind, Norris, who recently turned 21, described the difficulties he had gone through.
He said: “Have you ever struggled with something mentally but hidden it from the world by putting on a brave face? I know I have.
“During my first season racing in Formula 1, I might have looked like the new kid on the block full of confidence and enthusiasm but that really wasn’t the case. I covered up the fact I was struggling a lot with nerves and anxiety.
“Despite making it to F1, something I had dreamt of ever since I began racing, I found myself questioning my own self-belief: worrying if I had what it took, comparing myself with my team-mate and other drivers.
“It screws with your head. It’s tough to deal with and I’m sure many other drivers have struggled with it in the past.
“But in sport, because no-one wants to give the opposition an edge or show any weakness, we don’t talk about mental health as much as we should – and we really should.”
Norris revealed that, with fewer opportunities to confide in family and friends due to being away from home so much in his career, being able to talk to close colleagues has helped him.
“When I’m racing, my manager, performance coach and engineers – the people I work closest with – are my family,” he added.
“We spend so much time working together that we know each other really well and for all of us to perform at our best, we need to be comfortable and open with each other.
“Although we were physically apart for most of the winter and, of course, during lockdown, I spent a lot of time talking to this core group of people to try to overcome the nerves and anxiety I felt – something which risked affecting my second year in F1.
“By talking things through with them, it helped me to come into this season feeling much better about myself – more confident, more positive.
“It really highlights just how powerful talking to someone can be and the importance of having people around you that you can trust and rely on.”