British teenager Lando Norris will race for McLaren in F1 2019 in place of Stoffel Vandoorne.
Norris partners Carlos Sainz in an all-new McLaren line-up with the 18-year-old currently in contention for the F2 title.
Norris’ promotion from his reserve and test role at McLaren was confirmed just an hour after Vandoorne’s departure was announced. He has been handed a multi-year deal.
“We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we’ve very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason,” said Zak Brown, McLaren’s chief executive.
Norris said: “To be announced as a race driver for McLaren is a dream come true. 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 become the fourth team after Mercedes, Red Bull and Renault to confirm their full 2019 line-up.
Norris is the second British driver on the 2019 grid after world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Norris, who turns 19 in November, has impressed McLaren in his outings in their 2018 car this year. He competed in the last two Practice One sessions at Spa and Monza, while also tested the MCL33 at Budapest in July.
“We already know he’s fast, he learns quickly, and has a mature head on his young shoulders. We see much potential for our future together,” said Brown.
Sainz was signed last month to succeed Fernando Alonso, who is quitting F1 after 17 years in the sport.
“In Lando and Carlos we have an impressive duo who, despite their relative youth, hold valuable experience in Formula 1 and with McLaren, and represent the next generation of McLaren drivers to lead the team forward,” added Brown.
“While our short-term focus is fixed on securing the best possible result for the remainder of the 2018 season, we’re also massively motivated by the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Vandoorne’s hopes of staying in his McLaren race seat for a third season had appeared increasingly precarious amid a troubled run of form for the 26-year-old.
The Belgian is the only driver in the 2018 field yet to outqualify his team-mate after 14 races this year and last scored points at the Azerbaijan GP in April. Vandoorne is also on a run of seven consecutive Q1 eliminations.
Team chief Brown accepted they “haven’t provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent” and wished the popular Belgian well after a five-year association with McLaren which saw the former GP2 champion graduate from their young driver programme.
“We’re immensely thankful for Stoffel’s dedication, hard work and commitment during his time at McLaren,” said Brown. “He’s a talented racing driver with an incredible list of accolades in his junior career. We’re proud to have played a part in his break into Formula 1, from his role as test driver to his fantastic points-scoring debut in Bahrain in 2016.
“It’s clear we haven’t provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent, but throughout our relationship he’s proved to be a fantastic team player. His work ethic is impressive, he has a great reputation within the team and we’ve really enjoyed working with him.
“We wish Stoffel all the best in whatever direction he chooses to take next in his career, and we’ll be supporting him all the way
The 26-year-old was linked with ‘lifeline’ moves to Sauber and Toro Rosso in recent weeks.
“While we haven’t achieved the success we’d all hoped for, I’ve really enjoyed the past two seasons racing for McLaren and I have a great relationship with everyone in the team,” said Vandoorne.
“I intend to give it my all for the remaining seven races of this season, and will announce my plans for next season in due course.”