Red Bull’s driver programme boss Helmut Marko has revealed that he held talks to bring McLaren’s Lando Norris to the team.
A graduate of McLaren’s youth setup, Norris has become a vital driving force behind the team’s recovery since graduating in 2019.
With five podiums now under his belt at McLaren, Norris has become one of the most highly rated young drivers in Formula 1, and that drew Marko’s attention.
The idea of a Max Verstappen and Norris pairing at Red Bull sounds formidable, but Marko was not able to make it happen since Norris is tied down at McLaren under a multi-year contract.
“We’ve had talks with him, but he’s tied to McLaren for the long term,” Marko told Sport24 auto.
“We remain true to our path.”
Norris and McLaren very much hope to be fighting at the top of Formula 1 with Red Bull in the near future, with radically revised regulations for 2022 giving the potential to mix up the grid.
And though he rates Norris highly, Marko still believes Verstappen is a greater talent.
“I’m proud that we dared to bring Max into Formula 1 at the age of 16,” he said.
“He has never made me doubt that our path was the right one. He is always super focused and doesn’t let anything distract him from his goal of winning.
“Norris has caught my eye before. But Max is still at the top of my rankings because he can deliver immediately in all conditions and without a run-up, which he proved again impressively just now in the rain in Sochi. He almost even won the race, he just had to come into the pits one lap earlier.”
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Another driver who will plan on being in the title conversation from 2022 is George Russell, set to switch from Williams to Mercedes.
The Briton’s performances at Williams during 2021 have been sensational at times, including achieving P2 on the grid in Belgium which became a P2 finish and first Formula 1 podium.
Russell has now scored points in four of his last five races, but Marko says it will be at Mercedes where we find out Russell’s true level of ability.
“Next year we will see how good he really is,” Marko stated.
Of course Russell has made one Mercedes appearance, that coming at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix when he stepped in for the ill Lewis Hamilton, and it was after this race that the calls for Russell to join Mercedes full-time really gathered pace.
He would qualify P2 and then looked good for the win before a botched pit stop and later a puncture.
But in Marko’s mind, such was the dominance of the W11, he does not give much value to that Russell performance.
“Believe me, some could have won the World Championship in that Mercedes,” Marko stated.
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