McLaren boss Andrea Stella says it’s “natural” that the impressive Lando Norris is being linked with other Formula 1 teams.
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko has hinted that he has his eye on the on-form 23-year-old Briton, while Max Verstappen is obvious friends with Norris and says only his long McLaren contract may be preventing a move for now.
“It’s natural,” Stella told Corriere della Sera newspaper when asked about the speculation.
“If I was in another team I would try to understand how to get him as well. What we want to do is prevent that from happening to us.
“Aside from the contractual aspects, being able to win together is a special goal. I think if we give him and Oscar (Piastri) a competitive car, we won’t have a hard time keeping either of them.”
Italian Stella, 52, famously began his Formula 1 career as engineer to Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, before joining McLaren in 2015.
He then succeeded the Sauber-bound Andreas Seidl as McLaren’s team boss this year, and insists that he is enjoying working alongside CEO Zak Brown.
“He leaves me a lot of space. He is always as reachable as I am to him,” Stella said.
“He believes in giving responsibility to people, and he invites me to do it with my collaborators. In English it’s called ’empowerment’, which is his style and mine too. No need to raise your voice or bang your fists on the table.”
Stella’s first season in charge is going well, as McLaren has recovered from its early-season slump to be regarded by many as now Red Bull’s closest rival.
He admits that Max Verstappen’s dominance reminds him of working alongside Schumacher in 2004.
“We had won 12 of the first 13 races then,” said Stella. “And even in those days, when we dominated, winning was never easy. So I have the utmost respect for Max and for Red Bull.
“It’s not enough just to have the best car. They win because they’re the best in every area – including the driver.”
And he says that is now McLaren’s goal.
“In this second part of the season we must confirm our progress,” said Stella. “Always scoring points and putting ourselves in the fight for the podium.
“For next year we would like to be regularly among the top three and in 2025 we are aiming for victories.”
And for that, he is putting his hopes not just on the on-form Norris, but also the highly-rated rookie Piastri.
“We knew his results in the junior categories, which is why we pushed so hard to get him,” Stella said, referring to the earlier legal battle with Alpine.
“From the first test, Oscar’s qualities emerged in F1. He grows with each session, with each race, and it’s a quality that I’ve only seen in some of the best drivers. There is no noise in his head.
“He wastes no time on useless thoughts.”
However, Stella does have one wish when asked if he could change something about modern Formula 1.
“I’d like it to be more equal,” he said. “Perhaps we need to look at the budget cap in a bit more depth.”