Lando Norris defended after Red Bull rejection rumours amid Max Verstappen ‘annihilation’

Oliver Harden
A close-up shot of Lando Norris with a prominent Red Bull logo alongside him

Lando Norris was persistently linked with a move to Red Bull before signing a new McLaren contract

Former F1 star Jolyon Palmer has leapt to Lando Norris’s defence after rumours that he declined the offer of a Red Bull seat, pointing to Max Verstappen’s track record of “annihilating” his team-mates.

Despite potential vacancies at Red Bull and Mercedes for 2025, Norris committed his future to McLaren in January by signing a new multi-year contract.

Lando Norris right to ‘think twice’ about joining Max Verstappen to Red Bull

Earlier this month, the respected F1 reporter Mark Hughes revealed that Norris had been offered a seat by Red Bull, who had also rejected approaches from multiple World Champions Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Writing in a column for the official Formula 1 website, ex-Renault driver Palmer claimed Norris’s decision to commit to McLaren so soon was an “interesting choice” in a volatile driver market.

But he argued that it could prove to be a shrewd move given Verstappen’s history of destroying his team-mates, including the likes of Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Sergio Perez.

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Palmer said: “He committed his future to McLaren over the winter, which is an interesting choice given the turmoil in the driver market right now.

“With seats open at both Red Bull and Mercedes, time will tell if that is the smart move, but with the way that McLaren are improving right now there aren’t many better places to be in the short term.

“As tempting as a Red Bull seat would be, the way that Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Sergio Perez have been annihilated by Verstappen would make anyone think twice about joining a team so galvanised around a superstar driver.”

Speaking after his new McLaren contract was announced, Norris rejected the suggestion that he was running scared of Verstappen by declining the chance to pursue an opening at Red Bull.

Asked if he was fearful of taking on Verstappen in identical machinery, he said: “I think it’s a longer discussion than just saying that.

“Is Max one of the best drivers ever in Formula 1? Absolutely. I think he’s proved that enough.

“He’s in a team which he’s very comfortable in, a lot of things are built around him, so for anyone – even the Max of a few years ago – to go in against the Max of now is extremely difficult.

“So I don’t think it’s a question of: are you scared or not scared? I don’t think I’d ever be scared of going up against anyone.

“But even if you enter a team, are you in a position to challenge someone straight away? And are you comfortable to do that?

“And I think it’s a ‘no’ – for any driver. It takes time to adapt and takes time to get into place.

“And if you want to go against the best driver in the world, it’s not the best thing to do. It’s not a smart move to do.

“But I would love to race against Max. I’ve enjoyed some of our battles that we’ve had and I’m looking even more forward to the battles that we’re going to have this year.”

Asked if he had held talks with other teams before committing to McLaren, Norris added: “There’s always discussions every now and then.

“I’m not going to lie and say no, there’s always little discussions and you talk to people and see ‘what could you offer’ kind of thing, but it never went further than that.”

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