McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says his team must manage expectations with Lando Norris during his rookie season in the “cruel environment” of Formula 1.

Norris will make the step up to F1 this year after finishing runner-up to George Russell in the 2018 Formula 2 Championship. He will partner Carlos Sainz to form McLaren’s new-look line-up following the departures of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.

The 20-year-old is tipped by many to be the future of British motorsport after a stellar junior career, though Brown is keen to keep expectations grounded, particularly after Vandoorne’s short-lived spell at the team despite his promising talent.

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“Lando clearly is extremely talented,” Brown said.

“We’ve seen him in our race car a good amount now and what we need to do is nurture him, manage expectations internally and externally, and give him the equipment to show his talent.

“We know Carlos is an extremely quick and experienced race car driver so your first measure is against your team mate. 

“We expect them to race each other hard, race each other cleanly, and for sure, they need to get the measure of each other from time to time.

“He recognises he's going to make some rookie mistakes, we recognise he's going to have some race tracks he's never been to before. And we're in a rebuilding process.

“So it's one thing to jump into a team that is rebuilding compared to jumping into the championship calibre car. He's got a difficult team and we are going to be patient with him.”

Norris joins a McLaren team currently rebuilding after falling down the pecking order following a disastrous engine partnership with Honda. McLaren hoped a switch to Renault power units for 2018 would see it return to the front of the grid but a disappointing car design limited the Woking squad to sixth place in the constructors’ championship.

Brown acknowledged the scale of the task facing Norris and drew comparisons with how new Ferrari recruit Charles Leclerc bounced back from a difficult start to his career with Sauber, highlighting the importance of giving rookies time to find their feet.

“I do think Formula 1 can be a pretty cruel environment,” he explained.

“If you look at Leclerc, I remember there was commentary after the first two or three races of whether he should still be in Formula 1.

“And now he’s driving for Ferrari. So I think what we need to do is manage expectations, not after three races pass judgement, which we as a sport are always pretty quick to do.”

Brown said McLaren takes “some of the responsibility” for Vandoorne’s struggles that ultimately led to his exit from the team but stressed he does not fear a repeat for Norris, who will receive support from sporting director Gil de Ferran in his rookie campaign.

“We recognise that someone like Stoffel is an extremely good race car driver, and for whatever reason it didn’t work out,” he added.

“We don’t want to replicate that where we may have got that wrong or contributed to that lack of success.

“One of the things that we recognised is I think we need some additional racers in the McLaren family. 

“One of Gil’s primary roles is to make sure that everyone gels, including the driver.

“So he’ll be spending time both with Lando and Carlos making sure that we give them the best environment to work in.”

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