Guildford, Surrey - Have you heard about the Grand Prix driver who shares a flat to save on the bills?
Or about the multi-millionaire’s son whose most expensive gift to himself is an airbrush for which he saved up? Meet Lando Norris, who arrived for work as a confirmed Formula One racer with only a few cents to rub together at the start of a career that could make him rich.
While Lewis Hamilton will bank £40 million (R800 million) a year from his new Mercedes contract, 18-year-old Norris has agreed a three-season deal with McLaren worth £500 000 (R10 milion) annually. Hardly a pittance, but not enough to prompt him to rush straight out for Monaco real estate brochures.
News of his elevation from Formula Two title contender and McLaren reserve driver to a race seat for the 2019 season - starting in Melbourne in March - was broken to him by Zak Brown, the team’s chief executive, only three days ago at the Italian Grand Prix. Brown called Norris to his office on the first floor of the paddock motorhome and told him: "Welcome to Formula One."
Keeping it quiet
"My dad was with me, but otherwise I had to keep it quiet until it was announced, and then I got to tell everyone, including my mum," revealed Norris, who will partner Carlos Sainz. ‘When mum found out, she was crying. She’s very proud. It has been a long time - 11 years - of me travelling and not seeing her much. So for her to know that I’ve now got to where I wanted to be makes her very happy."
A tide of commercial and media interest may sweep over Norris’s head but for the moment he can relish the simple pleasures of life, such as his daily breakfast of cereal and full cream milk.
His family, father Adam, mother Cisca, elder brother Oli, younger sisters Flo and another Cisca, live in Glastonbury, Somerset, but he shares a flat with Formula Three driver Sacha Fenestraz in Guildford, Surrey, less than 16 kilometres from the McLaren factory in Woking.
Norris and Fenestraz race against each other on simulators in their time off and that gets competitive. He admits he was totally uninterested at school; he didn't take to sport either and hid on the wing in rugby so as not to get injured.
A bad boy?
No. He says the wickedest thing he has ever done was to steal a sweet as a five-year-old. He pretended he had been given it by his teacher. "I’ll ask her, then," said his mother. Rumbled!
"If I want to buy something for myself then I have to buy it out of money I have earned, so the most expensive thing I have ever bought is airbrush equipment for my painting.
"I like designing my own graphics. Having my own vinyl cutter, all the airbrushing equipment and paints, comes to a hefty price. I sold stickers for the back of phones and that’s where I made some money. I like to paint my helmets. I design my own suit and boots. That’s my favourite hobby. That’s what I would do if I wasn't in racing.’
Finally, he nails one canard: that his name is derived from the Star Wars character Lando Calrissian. He says it is simply a name his mother liked. Either way, it is one we will grow accustomed to hearing over the next few years.