Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturdays: Playing With Some Silly Season Dominoes

There have been quite a few silly season dominoes waiting to fall around the F1 paddock as they always do in the run-up to the summer break.

Now that the first big one has fallen with the unceremonious firing of Nyck de Vries from AlphaTauri and the reawakening of Daniel Ricciardo, there have been quite a few whispers being broadcasted out.

Reporter Joe Saward mentioned in his blog that “some [in the paddock] believe that Lando [Norris] may already have some kind of pre-contract with Ferrari”, following the race in Austria a couple of weekends ago. He also mentioned that Red Bull could also be a landing spot for the Britain.

Norris is currently signed through 2025, so if he has a deal with Ferrari, it is incredibly premature. Sure, the Scuderia has done things like this before – they signed a 2007 contract with Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 – but this seems a bit out there.

Could Charles Leclerc be looking for an exit from the team? Possible. But where exactly would he go to that would be a better situation than what he has now? If he re-upped with Ferrari for all of the team’s faults, he would be almost the undisputed lead driver for the next few years.

Norris could take over for his old teammate Carlos Sainz instead. But the team already has an answer there. Ferrari Academy driver Oliver Bearman is winning races now in F2, and while that’s not a guarantee he’ll make it into a Ferrari seat eventually, that’s almost certainly a factor going on in Sainz negotiations.

Ferrari could try and flex Bearman to a customer seat in Formula One, but where would that be now? They don’t hold any influence over either Alfa Romeo or Haas like they used to, where either one or both had a Ferrari driver in one of their seats.

No, any new Ferrari Academy driver in F1 would almost certainly get a seat at the main team now. And while Bearman probably needs another year either in F2 or if he wins the championship in the Ferrari sim, as he’s just 18 years old, that’s fine because Norris, Leclerc, and Sainz’s contracts all end after 2024 or later anyway.

Basically, to make a long story short, Ferrari has one too many drivers as is before adding Norris somewhere in the equation. This just screams to me more as somebody from Ferrari pushing a rumor to gain an edge in contract talks with either Leclerc or Sainz.

Then there is Red Bull, and this is a much more interesting proposition. But even then, why would Norris want to come in and try to compete with Max Verstappen? Too many drivers try to and end up leaving with less teeth. Sergio Perez is about to be the latest, followed by Yuki Tsunoda in 2025.

There’s really no logical reason as to why Norris would leave McLaren right now. Norris has the talent to be a lead driver on a team, a role he would struggle to find on just about any team he could conceivably jump to, outside of the clear steps down like AlphaTauri, of course.

It may seem quaint, and it may not be in the greatest position as a customer team in a series that will have seven engine manufacturers in 2026. But of the remaining customer teams remaining, none are in a better position than McLaren. This also gives them long-term flexibility other teams like the Ferrari-affiliated Haas simply will not have.

Zak Brown is a bit of a goofball to deal with, of course. But he’d be preferable to the political land mines Norris would be stepping into at Ferrari. While at Red Bull, Helmut Marko may well be the first human being in history to still be alive without a working heart.

So no, Norris should not be heading anywhere in F1 … unless it’s to Mercedes.

That not being rumored around is pretty incredible. Yes, Toto Wolff has like five drivers now on speed dial whenever Lewis Hamilton decides to call it a day. But none of them have the potential talent that Norris has.

It wouldn’t be too unrealistic if Hamilton signs for two more years and wants to retire after the deal. Wouldn’t it be convenient to have Norris signed to a future contract already? Coming in and fighting George Russell just seems like a much more tenable situation than risking a career against Max or being captain of the S.S. Ferrari as it heads to an iceberg.

But at the same time, Mercedes can’t offer that because then they are basically telling Hamilton that he’s done after 2025, and that would be hard to do. So instead, nothing will happen until that year for Norris. And maybe nothing ends up happening at all, and Norris stays at McLaren for the rest of his career.

Either way, I’m sure the dominos will fall in the coming weeks. Months. Years. It’s already a decade after 2013, so time is a flat circle. Or at least, a flat surface. The type you stand dominoes on.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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