Norris keen to exploit virtual advantage on track

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL34. 12.07.2019.
© XPB 

If there's anything that characterises the new generation taking over in Formula 1, it's the way that young drivers such as Lando Norris are immersed in virtual and online racing simulations.

Norris told the official website this week that the technology was enabling him to carry on racing all the time, and that this was boosting his real life performance on track at race weekends.

“I pretty much do racing non-stop," he explained. "I drive at the track, and when I get home I play on my simulator

Even on a rare day off from the office, Norris estimated that he spent "eight or nine hours" on the simulator.

“I love doing it,” the teenager said. "It’s a passion for wanting to learn different things, to just constantly drive and become better at what I do.

"I’m always involved in something to do with racing and driving so my involvement is higher than most."

In a very real sense, Norris owes his current full-time position in F1 to his skill at performing in simulators.

He recalled a particularly gruelling 18-hour stint at the McLaren Technology Centre in 2017 over the Japanese Grand Prix race weekend. While the team was in Suzuka, Norris was in Woking and working in the advanced simulator to help develop race strategies.

“I remember I spent the day at the MTC on Thursday and then headed home for a few hours’ sleep before heading back at midnight,” Norris said. "I didn’t finish until around 6pm, so that was a long day!

"But I learned so much from doing sessions like that," he continued. "In that role, you’re spending hours and hours in the simulator doing all the correlations, giving feedback and suggesting what the team can do trackside.

"That was great for me, because it helped prepare me for now.”


Given these circumstances, it's not all that surprising that Norris is still deeply into eSports - to the extent that he's just teamed up with F1 rival Max Verstappen to take part in the virtual Spa 24 hours race with the Team Redline PRT sim racing squad this weekend.

The McLaren and Red Bull drivers previously planned to team up for a run in the Bathurst 12 Hour virtual event in February, only to have co-driver Atze Kerhof crash the BMW Z4 GT3 before they even got a chance to get behind the wheel.

But that disappointment has certainly not dimmed Norris' support for eSports, and he's convinced that the skills are transferable between the virtual and real arenas.

“There’s a lot of people in the world who are very good drivers," Norris said at a recent event for McLaren's Shadow Project.

"More often nowadays you have drivers who can go from a simulator into a real car and show the skills correlate very well," he added, pointing to a number of successful gamers who have since moved into professional motor sports.

"[They] have showed that you can do this kinda thing, and I think there’s plenty more people out there, a lot of people have a chance of winning it and going on to maybe even drive a real car."

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