Lando Norris said he turned down the possible chance to join Red Bull because it wouldn’t be “smart” to go up against Max Verstappen.
The Briton put pen to paper on a new deal with McLaren last week. The extension means he will continue to drive for the Woking-based squad in 2026 and beyond, putting to an end – for now, at least – speculation he might join Red Bull.
Links between Norris and the defending champions had been strong. He has been on Christian Horner’s radar for years and, with Red Bull considering their options for Sergio Perez replacements this year, he would no doubt have been near the top of the list of candidates.
But Norris instead chose to commit his immediate future to his current team on the rise. Explaining his decision, he made it clear he believes in McLaren’s ability to challenge for race wins and championships in the coming years.
In a new interview with Sky Sports, however, the 24-year-old made it clear he did not think going up against Verstappen in the same team would be a great career move. “I think it’s a longer discussion than just saying that,” he said.
“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?
“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.”
Even by remaining at McLaren, Norris pits himself against a worthy team-mate. Oscar Piastri enjoyed a stellar rookie F1 season last year and impressed everyone within and without the team – including Norris who believes his Aussie partner “already is” a more challenging rival than predecessor Daniel Ricciardo.
He said: “It was nice to have that bit more of a push. As much as you hate it, you also like and welcome it because I want to make sure I’m in the best position for, when I am fighting for a championship, that I am ready on all accounts and when you have a driver and team-mate that can push you that little bit more, it’s only going to make you even more ready.”