McLaren hint that British teenager Lando Norris could make his debut this season

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McLaren have left the door ajar for their teenage reserve driver Lando Norris to become Britain’s youngest Formula One debutant this season.

It emerged before the Canadian Grand Prix that Norris, 18, has been approached by Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso to race for them for the remainder of the campaign.

McLaren blocked the proposed loan move because Toro Rosso wanted the deal to extend into 2019. The British team’s plans for next year are still undetermined, and they may yet call on Norris to step up to their race team if Fernando Alonso, who is 37 next month, leaves at the end of the season, or Stoffel Vandoorne is released.

Zak Brown, McLaren’s CEO, is, however, keen for Norris to gain experience before he is awarded a full-time seat, and did not rule out the option of a return to the negotiating table with Toro Rosso.

“If there was an opportunity for Lando to gain experience then that’s something we would consider,” said Brown when asked if he would be interested in loaning Norris to Toro Rosso this season.

“Lando is a McLaren driver. He has a bright future here, but we do not have an interest in letting Lando go anywhere on a long-term deal.”

Norris, from Glastonbury in Somerset, has already been earmarked as the next Lewis Hamilton after he won last year’s Formula Three series.

The teenager holds a 27-point lead in this season’s Formula Two championship, the feeder series to F1, and won impressively on his debut in Bahrain in April.

Norris is held in high regard by those at McLaren, but while he is under consideration for a full-time drive, they are wary of thrusting the youngster into the limelight prematurely.

Toro Rosso are interested in Norris replacing Brendon Hartley – the under-performing New Zealander who was given the all clear in a Montreal hospital on Sunday night following his 170mph crash with Lance Stroll.

Hartley’s opening-lap accident with the Canadian teenager was one of few flashpoints in a race won by Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton finished only fifth to fall one point behind his Ferrari rival in the standings following a weekend to forget for the defending champion and his Mercedes team.

“My mind is not weak and I am still here to win,” Hamilton said. “I still believe we can win the championship.

“I have got complete confidence in my guys and I am putting my energy towards them. If you look across the tennis net, and you think I might lose this, then you have already lost.

“I don’t look at any driver and think I might lose to that person, but instead how I can beat them and how can I be better. I am going to keep doing that until I die.”

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