When Lando Norris takes to the grid at Melbourne in March, he’ll be the youngest driver on the grid — and third youngest ever to start a race.
The 2017 FIA F3 champion joined McLaren during the F1 “Silly Season” to replace Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne. He’s spent 2018 not only testing the McLaren in official sessions, but racing in F2 — where he finished second behind 2019 Williams driver George Russell.
But Norris has another love in racing: sim-racing.
He’s a well-known name in sim-racing circles. Part of the Team Redline stable of drivers — which also includes fellow F1 racer Max Verstappen — it’s not uncommon to encounter Norris online.
Speaking to Motorsport.com after last weekend’s less successful iRacing endurance event, Norris referred to his love of sim-racing:
“A lot of it is for enjoyment point of it, I love driving on the sim and doing races, putting time and effort in and hopefully getting the result out of it.
“I can learn from people like Max, or not just real-life drivers but people who drive in the sim they know a lot about how to set up a car.
“Between Team Redline, the team Max and myself are part of, we’ll aim to do some more races in the future. I’m not going to have as much as time as in the off-season, but if I can do more races I’d 100% like to.”
But more than that, Norris credits sim-racing as part of his learning process as a professional racing driver:
“There are definitely things you can learn from a strategy perspective. We go through hours and hours of preparation trying to do setup stuff and, from that side of things, you learn a lot about different cars.
“A lot of it relates very well back to an F1 car. So you try ride heights, wings, camber, caster, whatever, tyre pressure.
“You are staying involved in all this and knowing what everything does and the combinations of, for example, if you go with this wing you can get away with a bit more lower rear ride height and things like that. Sometimes people don’t know that.”
Of course McLaren is one of the teams at the forefront of blurring the lines between virtual motorsport and real-life racing. The World’s Fastest Gamer competition winner, Rudy van Buren, became a simulator driver for the F1 team. He then went on to beat the pros in the Race of Champions, a feat repeated this season by gamers.
The FIA-Certified Online Championships winner, Igor Fraga, may follow suit as McLaren Shadow winner. We may be fast approaching an era where the best drivers in the world started with sims — and you’ll be able to race them yourself on non-race weekends!