Formula One star Lando Norris says he respects Jenson Button’s opinion but insists he made the right call by signing a long-term deal with McLaren.
Norris made his F1 debut with McLaren in 2019 and has raced for them ever since, and is currently set to stay at the Woking-based team until at least 2025 after penning a new contract last year.
This move surprised many including Button as Norris is considered one of the fastest drivers on the grid and such a contract would hinder any opportunity to join one of the sport’s leading teams.
But with McLaren making good progress over the past few years, including winning their first race for nearly a decade in 2021 and helping Norris finish on the podium five times, there was certainly some logic behind it.
However, in 2022 the gap between McLaren and the front of the grid only got bigger as the team slipped to fifth in the standings with Norris finishing on the podium just once in Imola.
Now the British driver is in his fifth season, 2009 world champion Button believes Norris needs to be in a winning car, but the 23-year-old does not agree, telling PA: ‘It is not always that simple.
‘The thing with Formula One is that you can be the best driver in the world, and not be in the best car, and that is through no fault of your own. Lewis [Hamilton] came into McLaren [in 2007] when they were winning championships and winning races and from the beginning, that makes you look good.
‘If he came into McLaren now he wouldn’t have won a race and he wouldn’t have been anywhere near the driver he is today or achieved what he has today.
‘It is my choice and I am the one who says “yes” or “no”. I could just be here because I am enjoying it more and I like McLaren and it as simple as that.
‘I respect people’s opinions – particularly Jenson’s because he has been through a lot of these times – so I take it all on board. I don’t ignore it, I get what he is saying a little bit.
‘But if someone says c**p about me, then cool I will laugh about it and move on. Big deal. A few years ago I probably would have taken it a bit more to heart.
‘I am doing the best I can, but most people who make these comments are people that don’t just have knowledge of what the facts are. They just come up with an opinion that creates controversy.’
Going into the 2023 season, there are serious fears that McLaren have slipped further behind, with Norris reportedly furious with the MCL60’s lack of pace.
This could tempt him to seek a move away with Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes all still keeping tabs on the young driver, but for now he insists he does not regret staying loyal to the team that got him into F1.
He added: ‘We saw what was on the table, but I did and I do want to believe in McLaren. It would mean more if we eventually do get to win a world championship, rather than just jumping into a car and winning a title, although I would love that, too.
‘For now, it is tough and I would love it if we were ahead of where we are. Last year, there should have been an opportunity for us to take advantage of the new rules and we didn’t and now we have to find that momentum. We are playing catch-up.
‘It is hard because I am not the most patient guy and when you get into Formula One you have to learn to deal with that. But I did what is best for me and I have faith in my decision.’
The 2023 F1 season gets underway this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix.
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