Lando Norris started a momentous week by being the victim of a mugging incident and left shaken after having his watch stolen in a Wembley war-zone. But the Bristol-born Formula One sensation would now love nothing more than to pick Lewis Hamilton’s pocket and steal a debut F1 win in his home British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
The 21-year-old McLaren ace endured a harrowing night at the Euro 2020 final – the first football match he had ever attended. First he saw England’s Three Lions agonisingly edged out on penalties by Italy. And then, returning to his £165,000 McLaren GT car, he was grabbed and robbed of a £40,000 Richard Mille watch.
The ugly episode, which thankfully left Norris unharmed, is now the subject of a police investigation and he quickly went on to social media to say: “Thanks for all the messages. It really means a lot. I am doing well, I'm trying to make sure that I am ready and in the right zone for this weekend to perform at my best.”
And having thanked the thousands of well-wishers, Norris - standing a lofty fourth in the drivers’ championship - is now ready for a 141,000 crowd at a sell-out home race.
In the last race in Austria, even seven-time world champion Hamilton was heard to say on his team radio “Such a great driver, Lando,” when finally overtaking him after 20 laps. And Norris is now confident he can go wheel to wheel with the best.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen tops the drivers’ table just ahead of seven-time world champion and sporting great Hamilton. But three podium finishes already this season have made the world sit up and take notice of Norris.
Talking in the Mika Hakkinen Room at McLaren’s Woking HQ this week, he said: “Yes, I am ready to win if the chance arises. In the last race in Austria we were out for a podium, and were in that position fighting for second or third place.
“Maybe fighting for the win is a slightly different feeling again, but that was the first time I was really racing against Valtteri Bottas, and the first time to be racing Lewis ever for more than one corner! So that is a different feeling. Lewis is the best for a reason. And I felt like I was very capable of holding him off for 20 laps.
“It was awesome to hear what he said at the last race – more than if it had come from any other driver in F1. All the way from karting you are looking up at the next category and the drivers winning. You think they look good and wonder if you can hit that level. Then you go in, and you do, and beat them.
“And it’s like that in Formula Two. You look at the F1 drivers and think ‘Am I going to be good enough?’ and I have come in and done well enough. I hadn’t really raced against Mercedes and Red Bull so you want to know what that’s like, and I got that chance in Austria and did a good job.
“And I think that will be the same if I am leading the race. I didn’t feel any more nervous driving for second or third than I did driving for seventh or eighth.
“We are closer than we ever have been. There are examples like last season when Pierre Gasly won and you get a bit lucky. You could suddenly be in that position where someone crashes or has a failure. At the moment we still need that to happen, but that can happen.”
Hamilton won last year’s race at an empty Silverstone, but the return of the fans this year has put a smile on Norris’s face. He hopes to surf the wave of national sporting fervour created by the exploits of Gareth Southgate’s football heroes. And Norris admits the closest he gets to the guilt of a penalty miss is letting down the McLaren team with a bad mistake.
He added: “Having fans back makes the home race more exciting, special and nerve-wracking knowing more eyes are on you. You are most aware of the fans during the parade lap, on the grid when you hop out of the car and a bit on the finishing straight. In the middle of the race you might see the stands, but you can’t hear the fans when you’re driving. Some people say they do, but that’s a lie! But just seeing the flags puts a smile on your face.
“I would love to surf some kind of wave of national pride, represent the crowd and give them something - as the football team did. Of course I want to win for the team and myself, but representing Britain is also very cool.
“And having seen those penalty misses…you can feel like that in F1. I did when I messed up qualifying in Imola – losing everything by making one mistake and letting a lot of people down.”
The packed stands at Silverstone and watching millions will be hoping for no mistakes and another cracking drive from Norris on Sunday.