McLaren’s up-and-coming star Lando Norris has caught the attention of three F1 teams, but the need to cut ties with McLaren makes it harder for the youngster to jump at the opportunity.
Toro Rosso admitted they approached the British driver under the condition that he is available on a long-term contract.
But McLaren is in no mood to offer their potential future champion to anyone on a long-term loan and intends to keep the F2 champion within their ranks.
Speaking with Motorsport.com, Brown said: “We’ve been approached by more than one team,”
“We’ve had three approaches, of varying degrees. Some included this year, but we want him to focus on F2, and keep him at McLaren.
“If we felt it was good for his career, and good for McLaren, then we’d consider it on a case-by-case basis.
“But all of the approaches meant he would have gone away, and we’re not interested in that conversation. That’s non-negotiable.
“We’re not going to train him up for someone else, but I don’t think anyone else has any interest in training him up for us.”
The problem is not uncommon in F1. McLaren’s current driver Stoffel Vandoorne faced the same issue two years ago. The Belgian was contracted with the Woking outfit, but could not get into an F1 seat as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were already racing for the British team
So the GP2 champion was sent to Japan’s Super Formula series for a year. When he returned, he got Button’s F1 seat.
McLaren is looking at a repeat of the scenario in 2019 as both the seats are still occupied and they can’t place Norris elsewhere. Most of the teams that came asking have close ties with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull and typically run their junior drivers.
“We don’t have any sister teams,” said Brown. “It’s not ideal.
“I think it shows that the FIA needs to look closely into how much influence teams have over other teams because what they’re starting to do is to close down opportunities for people that are independent.”
Toro Rosso was interested in Norris as its newest driver Brendon Hartley was struggling to finish races and was accident prone. Red Bull doesn’t have any junior driver to place immediately in the sister team.
The team’s F1 advisor Helmut Marko admitted to having contacted Norris.
“We had discussions, but differently from what was announced by whoever,” he told Motorsport.com. “We are making our negotiations behind closed doors, not in public.”
When asked if it common for the outfit to discuss a deal with a driver who is contracted with another team, Marko said: “With Red Bull you never can say what we are really doing. We are good for surprises!”