F1 briefing: Lando Norris, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo
McLaren hand teenager a practice run in Belgium, while Red Bull describe Ricciardo’s move as ‘very strange’
McLaren hand Lando Norris a chance
McLaren have given youngster Lando Norris the opportunity to stake a claim for an F1 drive next season by offering him the chance to drive in practice at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.
The 18-year-old will pilot Fernando Alonso’s car in the first practice session on Friday.
Alonso is quitting F1 at the end of the season and although McLaren have moved to sign Carlos Sainz from Renault, they could still be on the lookout for another driver next season, says ESPN.
“It appears unlikely Alonso’s current teammate, Stoffel Vandoorne, will be retained after a difficult campaign which has seen him comprehensively out-performed by the two-time world champion.
“Norris, who is currently second in the Formula 2 championship behind Mercedes junior driver George Russell, has been handed the opportunity at a crucial moment in McLaren’s decision-making process.”
Sainz denies Verstappen rumour
New McLaren signing Sainz, meanwhile, has dismissed rumours that Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has vetoed a promotion from Toro Rosso next season.
“A seat at the energy drink team opened up at the beginning of August when Daniel Ricciardo announced that he would be leaving the team for Renault,” says F1 Today.
“Verstappen and Sainz were partnered at Toro Rosso a couple of years ago, with tensions rising on a number of occasions.”
But Sainz has rejected claims that Verstappen wasn’t keen on a reunion. “I don’t know where that comes from because Max is one of the drivers I have the best relationship with in the paddock,” he said.
Ricciardo’s Renault move is ‘very strange’
Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to quit Red Bull for Renault has raised eyebrows. His current team’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has said that he doesn’t understand the reasons for the switch.
Describing the decision as “very strange,” he said: “I can only assume that maybe he doesn’t believe in the Honda project or that Renault offered him a lot of money.”
Ricciardo had been expected to sign a new deal with Red Bull this summer but “shocked his current team” by agreeing to drive for Renault instead, reports Autosport.
“Red Bull claimed to have met all Ricciardo’s contract demands, which led team principal Christian Horner to suggest Ricciardo feared being a number two to Max Verstappen,” it says.
“Ricciardo has won two races with Red Bull this season while Renault is yet to score a podium as it continues to rebuild its works team.”
Belgium Grand Prix hard to call, say Mercedes
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says he’s looking forward to the resumption of the F1 season at Spa this weekend, but it’s impossible to predict the outcome of the race, reports The Chequered Flag.
Wolff says Mercedes have used the break to recharge and re-energise before a “hard-fought second half” of the season.
“From a team’s perspective, the circuit is quite tricky, as it is not easy to find the right set-up for a track that has long straights, considerable changes in elevation and high-speed corners,” he says.
“It’s very difficult to make any predictions for Spa. If this season has taught us one thing, it’s that there are no clear favourites for specific tracks anymore and that it’s not always the fastest car that wins.”