McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says the risky decision switching to an all-new line-up for the 2019 Formula 1 season turned into a "gift" as Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris excelled in their first year as teammates.

McLaren signed Sainz from Renault for 2019 to partner with Formula 2 graduate Norris, marking the team's most inexperienced line-up since 2009.

But the duo flourished together on-track, leading the team to fourth place in the constructors' championship to mark its best season since 2012. They also struck up a close off-track relationship, with zero sign of tension within the team.

Speaking at Autosport International, Brown said that while it seemed like a risk at the time to make the complete change in driver line-up for 2019, it quickly paid off.

"It turned out to be a gift," Brown said. "I think there was some risk with it, with Lando being the youngest British driver. He’s had such a stellar career every step of the way. It really clinched it for us when he did his free practice ones, he was extremely impressive. Also when he did the 24 Hours of Daytona with Fernando [Alonso] as his teammate, we were able to see how that went and he didn’t leave anything behind. There would be some debate as to who was actually quicker, so it was that close.

"He stepped up to the plate. The one where for me I really went ‘he’s ready’, was when he did his first free practice in Formula 1, he was as relaxed as when he was on the grid for a Formula Renault race. He wasn’t having a moment of ‘here I am in Fernando Alonso’s car’. I think the first session may have even been wet and he was just cool and he had the speed right away.

"Carlos has been outstanding. He’s been living under one year contracts in the whole Red Bull-Toro Rosso environment, they are obviously a fantastic team but they can be a bit rough on their drivers. I think Carlos is a driver who needs to know that he has a team behind him and that his next race might not be his last race, which is a little bit of the environment that is created over there sometimes. I think some drivers can step up to that and for others, it’s a pretty uncomfortable environment. 

"They get along really well when they are on the track together, I’m not nervous unlike maybe the Haas duo. They have got a real respect for each other but they race each other really hard but they race for the team. They’ve been great to work with."



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