McLaren confirmed Monday that 18-year-old Lando Norris will drive for its Formula 1 team in 2019.
The British youngster is already a test and reserve driver for the team and a contender in the 2018 Formula 2 Championship, where he currently ranks second.
He will replace current McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne who will step down from the team at the end of 2018 after a two-year stint. The Belgian driver said he will announce plans for the next season in due course. Rumors of a seat at Sauber have been quashed but there’s still an opportunity at Toro Rosso.
Norris’ appointment at McLaren comes after it was confirmed in August that Spanish driver Carlos Sainz will replace compatriot Fernando Alonso at the team. Alonso retires from F1 at the end of 2018 after 17 years in the sport.
Prior to joining McLaren, Norris rose rapidly through the ranks in junior racing categories, winning the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the Toyota Racing Series Championship all in 2016, in addition to five karting championships in the four previous years. Last year, he contested the European Formula 3 Championship, which he won at the first attempt.
“To be announced as a race driver for McLaren is a dream come true,” Norris said in a statement. “Although I’ve been part of the team for a while now, this is a special moment, one I could only hope would become reality.”
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown in a statement said that Norris is an integral part in the F1 team’s “rebuilding” for the future after a recent string of bad years. The team has already swapped from Honda to better performing Renault power units in 2018 and is currently ranked sixth in the Constructors’ Championship.