British teenager Lando Norris has been hailed as a “star of the future” by McLaren after his impressive Formula One testing debut at the Hungaroring on Wednesday.
Norris, 17, finished behind only Sebastian Vettel in the order and was just 0.2 seconds adrift of the sport’s championship leader.
His best effort was also quicker than both Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne managed at the same venue in qualifying for last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Norris was signed up to McLaren’s junior programme at the beginning of the year, and had already been earmarked as world champion in the making.
And his performance in Budapest yesterday was only marginally outshadowed by that of the returning Robert Kubica following his rallying crash more than six years ago.
“Lando has impressed us all with his maturity, professionalism and speed,” Eric Boullier, McLaren’s racing director said. “He has got to grips very quickly with the car in only his first outing.
“His feedback with the engineers has been valuable and accurate, and he’s certainly an asset to our test driver line-up, not to mention a potential star of the future.”
Norris, born in Bristol, already boasts an impressive resume in the junior motorsport categories, and is second in this year’s European Formula Three series.
The Englishman is also following in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton, Britain’s triple world champion, who joined McLaren when he was only 13.
“It has been a very exciting day for me and something I’ve looked forward to for quite some time,” said Norris, who completed 91 laps at the Hungaroring.
“It’s been a really good day, and a very productive one for all of us. I managed to get through all the tests that the team asked me to complete, and everything went well.
“Getting used to the car was a bit of a challenge at first, but by the end of the day I felt very comfortable. I got a lot of laps under my belt and I really enjoyed the experience.”
Vandoorne is under contract next year, but there will be a vacancy at McLaren if Alonso, whose deal expires at the end of the season, parts company with the British team.
Norris will celebrate his 18th birthday in November, and will therefore be eligible for an F1 superlicence in 2018.