Seidl jumped ship – so will Norris leave McLaren too?

There can be no downplaying the significance of Seidl’s work at McLaren. In less than four years in charge, Seidl has been instrumental in leading the Woking outfit’s recovery from the lows of their 2015-2018 slump to establishing themselves as a front-of-the-midfield runner.

Seidl, along with CEO Zak Brown, oversaw major changes in restructure and personnel that helped McLaren finish fourth twice and third once between 2019 and 2021, and enabled the team to take their first grand prix win in nearly a decade. This was all part of a carefully mapped out plan to return to the front of the grid.

Seidl’s accelerated exit – in order to ready the Alfa Romeo/Sauber team for Audi’s foray into F1 in 2026 – will be seen as a blow to McLaren’s ambitions.

Seidl has been replaced by Andrea Stella, the team’s executive racing director since 2019, with immediate effect.

Although McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown revealed Stella was always the team’s “first choice” to succeed Seidl, describing the Italian as “highly-talented, experienced and respected”, the step up to team principal will be new territory.

McLaren are confident Stella is capable of continuing to build on the strong foundations laid by Seidl, ensuring the team “won’t miss a beat” after encouraging their revival.

Norris has underlined how important having “faith” in McLaren’s project is to him. Seidl was Norris’ first F1 boss and has been a driving force behind their recent progress.

Only in February of this year did the Briton sign a long-term contract to stay at McLaren until the end of 2025, a deal that reflected Seidl and Brown’s own commitments.

At the time Norris put pen to paper over the fresh terms, Seidl spoke of how his signature was an “important message from our side that we can get there in these next four years”.

But 10 months later and Seidl has moved on to pastures new, lured by the appeal of another exciting project, and the chance to return to the Volkswagen Group.

What does that say about Seidl’s own faith in McLaren? And could it now lead to uncertainty on Norris’ side?

Norris reacted to the news with a tweet, saying it had been “mega” working alongside Seidl.

He recently revealed he had held talks with Red Bull, among several other teams, prior to signing a new deal with McLaren.

The 23-year-old is one of the hottest prospects in F1 and his reputation has continued to sky-rocket thanks to his superb performances en route to seventh place in the 2022 world championship as the best of the rest behind only the drivers of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

It is no surprise that the likes of Red Bull and co would be showing interest, something McLaren admitted they were keen to ward off by tying Norris down.

McLaren suffered a setback in 2022 as they were beaten to fourth in the constructors’ championship by Alpine, with Norris only able to take one podium finish.

“If I think of before this season, did we achieve in 2022 what we should have done as McLaren? Honestly, it’s no,” Norris told Sky.

“If we want to do well and we want to be champions at some point and we want to win races, we can’t be satisfied with where we have been this season, but we can certainly be satisfied with the progress we’ve made .

“From the mechanics with our pit stops, our strategy, the whole team’s work ethic – so many things are working well, it’s just we need a slightly better car, that’s all.”

2023 will be a big year for McLaren to convince Norris they remain on track to achieve their goals, especially following Seidl’s departure. If Norris’ confidence starts to wade, or he grows frustrated amid his wait to join the fight at the front of the grid, might he also be tempted to jump ship?

McLaren will naturally be aiming to prove to Norris that they are the right team for him, and they will hope that Stella’s vast experience as a performance and race engineer – working alongside the likes of Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso – will only strengthen the relationship.

Only time will tell if Seidl’s fast-tracked exit spells bad news for McLaren’s hopes of holding onto arguably the most desirable driver on the F1 grid.

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