McLaren at risk of losing Lando Norris to Mercedes or Red Bull

Lando Norris is contracted to remain at McLaren until the end of 2025, before the new engine regulations kick in.

Lando Norris enjoyed yet another strong campaign in 2022, a year which saw the British driver add to his podium tally following an excellent performance at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Remarkably, Norris’ podium at Imola was the only occasion during 2022 where a midfield driver claimed a rostrum finish, highlighting Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s dominance.

It would come as no shock that the McLaren driver ended the year as ‘best of the rest’ in the Drivers’ Championship, after comfortably claiming seventh in the standings.

Seventh became a hated number for the 23-year-old, though, who appeared to either qualify in seventh or finish the race in that certain position.

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He will be eager for McLaren to deliver a better package in 2023, with the Woking-based side having taken a step backwards following the introduction of the new aerodynamic regulations.

Prior to the new regs, McLaren had cemented themselves as the top midfield team, following multiple podiums across 2020 and 2021, including, Daniel Ricciardo’s victory at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix.

The British side, though, were very much a real midfield team this year, where they claimed fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.

McLaren, ultimately, didn’t have what it took to challenge the top three sides, at least not Red Bull or Ferrari.

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Norris did manage to out-qualify George Russell and Lewis Hamilton on a handful of occasions in 2022; however, the Silver Arrows were usually too strong during the race.

With that in mind, will McLaren be able to keep hold of Norris should they fail to improve?

Norris is rated by many as one of the strongest drivers on the grid and has certainly excelled every year since making his debut back in 2019.

He is currently at the start of a long-term contract with McLaren, one that ends at the end of 2025.

Interestingly, 2026 is when the new engine regulations will be introduced, so is there a chance that Norris could be racing elsewhere when the new regs are introduced?

Should Norris move, though, then it would have to be to a frontrunning side, given that he already occupies one of the best midfield seats on the grid.

Ferrari would be an unlikely home, given that the Italians might want to give any vacant seat to a member of their driver academy.

Carlos Sainz, though, was signed without being part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, but still Norris and Ferrari just don’t quite seem like a match.

Mercedes could be a real consideration, given that McLaren are a Mercedes customer team, something that could make a deal easier to put together.

This would likely depend, though, on when Lewis Hamilton decides to retire from the sport, with the Brackley-based team certainly not going to oust the seven-time World Champion.

That just leaves Red Bull, a team he has been linked to multiple times in the past.

Norris was actually linked to the Austrians before signing his long-term deal with McLaren earlier this year, showing that there is certainly interest in the Brit from the Constructors’ Champions.

The only way Norris could move to Red Bull, however, is if Sergio Pérez is either dropped by the team, moves elsewhere, or chooses to retire.

Pérez endured a mixed campaign in 2022 but did ultimately end the season strongly, despite unfortunately missing out on second in the Drivers’ Championship.

Weirdly, Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has already ruled Checo out of the title fight next season, with the Austrian believing no one can compete with Max Verstappen.

Pérez’s current deal expires at the end of 2024, with the likes of Daniel Ricciardo perhaps in line to step in should the Mexican fail to deliver.

Given that Norris and Verstappen are good friends, Red Bull might see the pair as a very strong line-up to take them into the new regs in 2026.

READ: Lando Norris admits McLaren uncertainty

For the time being, though, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown isn’t concerned at the threat of losing Norris, with it being “too early” to think about the Brit’s future.

“We’ve got runway [left] to get there and he knows the journey, he’s bought into the journey that we’re on,” Brown told reporters.

“It is too early to be worried about [him leaving].”