Norris will join Sky Indy 500 coverage from McLaren factory - The Race
Formula 1, Gaming, IndyCar

Norris will join Sky Indy 500 coverage from McLaren factory

May 21 2021
By Jack Benyon

McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris will join Sky Sports F1’s coverage of the Indianapolis 500 next weekend.

Norris – fresh off signing a new multi-year deal with the Woking team – will join Natalie Pinkham (pictured above with Norris) and Tom Gaymor at the McLaren Technology Centre where the trio will deliver a pre-race show and commentary in the breaks in the action in the States. The race commentary is provided by NBC.

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Norris is no stranger to IndyCar having last year competed in two rounds of the series’ iRacing Challenge, which was set up to fill the void in real racing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sky Sports F1 is the current home of IndyCar in the UK, broadcasting most sessions across the whole season.

The broadcast coming live from the MTC is significant, as McLaren invested in and became part of a full-time IndyCar Series team beginning in 2020, after three failed attempts to win the Indy 500 with Fernando Alonso.

Arrow McLaren SP finished fourth in the IndyCar championship last year with Patricio O’Ward, and won its first race with the same driver earlier this month at Texas.

The team is unique in IndyCar as on race weekends – similar to F1 – it has a live team back at McLaren’s factory with a small UK-based group tasked with analysing data and adding expertise to the US team on the ground.

A key part of that system is Norris’s ex-race engineer from his F1 rookie season, Andrew ‘Jarv’ Jarvis, who has been with the IndyCar team since leaving Norris last year.

After competing in the iRacing series, and being asked about if he would want to race in IndyCar in real life in the future, Norris said: “I would love to do it in the future. This has pushed me towards it more.

“That is still something not just in the future but the far future once I’ve focused on Formula 1, I’ve achieved my dreams and aims to try to win that and win a championship and win races.

“Maybe in many years you can ask me that question again.”

He also hinted after sealing his new McLaren deal this week that he wanted to race beyond F1 with the team eventually.

Controversy, drama and raw talent: Norris in IndyCar

Indycar Iracing Challenge First Responder 175

The coronavirus pandemic esports boom created a wonderful array of real-world drivers attempting different series, especially drivers like Norris and Max Verstappen who were already frequent esports competitors before this time.

Rumours began to swirl after the fourth round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge that Norris could join the series for the next round at F1 track Austin, which he did on April 25 last year.

In the build up, Norris’s Twitch stream displayed the amount of data and angles of attack drivers and engineers discuss – even though the car set-ups were fixed – as he and Jarvis attempted to perfect their opportunity for the race.

Norris blitzed to pole position by over three tenths and dominated the early proceedings despite being distracted by a pop-up window on his computer while driving.

He pitted before an enforced caution putting him off strategy, and in pushing hard knowing he’d need to put again, he passed two cars then promptly spun just after a restart.

It became a strategy race thereafter but spins and mistakes from his rivals promoted Norris to the lead following rapid pace after his own spin. He had to fight off a charging O’Ward in the final stages but just held on for a brilliant win.

Norris was persuaded to return to Arrow McLaren SP for the Indianapolis oval round, the finale of the series.

He ran out front for the majority of the race save for when strategy pushed him back, and a late charge on fresher tyres set up a likely race victory.

It came with a controversial move after a caution where he took Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud three wide in Turns 1 and 2, and what looked like what is known as a ‘net code’ error in esports – where it doesn’t look like a pair of cars touch but they do – sent Rahal into Pagenaud taking the latter out of the running.

Pagenaud’s stream was uploaded after the race where – after he returned to the pits and basically out of the top positions – he said “we take out Lando, let’s do it”.

Shortly after, while Norris was just a few laps from victory, he encountered a slow moving Pagenaud coming off Turn 4 and crashed into him, ending his win chances.

It was just another part of a crash-fest race where some drivers made a mockery of the spectacle, with five leaders in the last three corners as Scott McLaughlin cruised up from sixth to win his second race of the series.

Norris called Pagenaud “salty” afterwards, and McLaren CEO Zak Brown said it was “not what you expect from a champion”.

Brown himself is attending the Indy 500 in person in 2021, as he did last year, and is already present at the track for practice and qualifying rather than attending the Monaco GP.

He bet O’Ward that if the latter won an IndyCar race in 2021, he would get to test the McLaren F1 car in Abu Dhabi, a promise Brown has made good on.

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