Lando Norris, McLaren’s 19-year-old rookie, did not disguise his irritation on Thursday at being told by Lewis Hamilton that Formula One should be a “man’s sport”.
Ahead of Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix, the five-time world champion argued that the highest level of motorsport needed to be more strenuous, to prevent youngsters from adapting to its demands with such ease.
© PA Wire/PA Images Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during a press conference at the Circuit de Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)Clearly, the comment cut little ice with Norris, the youngest British driver in F1 history. “I don’t know why he would say it now, and not when he first started,” he said, taking the remark as a slight against him and fellow British debutants George Russell and Alex Albon. “It must be targeted at me, George and Alex, because we’re the youngest in F1 and I’m not suffering perhaps as much as he thinks I should.
“I don’t think it’s intimidation, I just don’t know why he wouldn’t say it any other year. It’s much harder now than when he started in F1. He says he likes heavier steering. Well, he can ask his team to turn down the power steering if he wants. Like him, I think it would be cool to have manual gearboxes, too. So, I’m not sure what his reasoning is behind it.”
© PA Wire/PA Images McLaren’s Lando Norris during qualifying at the Circuit de Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)There has never been much sign of closeness between the pair. Indeed, at one point in the press conference here in Montreal, Hamilton said to Norris: “I’m just wondering, how old are you? Nineteen? Shoot.” But this was the first time Norris had taken such umbrage at the elder statesman.
© 2019 Marco Canoniero MONTE CARLO, MONACO – 2019/05/26: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport in parc ferme after the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)
It marks the second time in three races that Hamilton has railed against the relative lack of physical exertion in modern F1. In Spain, where he led a processional race for 66 laps, he lamented: “You should be massively depleted afterwards. Instead, an 18-year-old can jump into F1 and have no problems.”
On balance, Hamilton had a point, with Norris conceding on Thursday that he did not even go to the gym, instead restricting himself largely to neck exercises. “I don’t like going to the gym,” he said. “My biggest focus is the neck and endurance. I wear this ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ harness, with a resistance trainer pulling against it.”
Hamilton was 22 when he completed his first race for McLaren in 2007 and times have clearly changed, with Norris part of a growing breed of drivers who see real racing almost an extension of their simulator work.