Damon Hill Defends Lando Norris Against "Choker" Label

“I thought he’d done everything that could be expected of someone who is an aspiring and potential grand prix winner."

by Sead Dedovic
Damon Hill Defends Lando Norris Against "Choker" Label
© Phil Inglis/Getty Images Sport

Damon Hill, once a star of F1, is also known for his interesting comments on the F1 scene. The 63-year-old Briton commented on Lando Norris's victory in Miami, which many are still talking about. Norris is a driver of top quality, but fans of the sport often discussed before the Miami race the fact that Norris had not yet achieved a victory in his career, despite numerous podium finishes. 

The 24-year-old Briton ignored such comments from season to season, ready to give his best and win, which he ultimately succeeded in doing. 

During the F1 Nation Podcast, Hill put an accent on the rumors that had arisen about Norris being a choker. Some believe that the young Briton doesn't perform well under pressure and needs to change such a mindset. However, Norris showed in the Miami race that he is a driver who has matured significantly.

“I heard that some people had been suggested he was a choker. Well I never thought of Lando in that way,” Hill said on the F1 Nation podcast.

“I thought he’d done everything that could be expected of someone who is an aspiring and potential grand prix winner and potential world champion in that he’d paid his dues and he’d learned the hard way."

Hill reflects on the race in Russia in 2021, when Norris was close to victory. It reminded Hill of moments in his own career when he was often close to winning, but something would always spoil his intentions. Hill believes that it's all part of the sport. F1 is often unfair, but the point of it all is to lift your head, return to the winner's circle, and quickly forget about failure.

“I was in Russia when he nearly won and sadly got caught out in the final few laps. And I myself remember how I came so close so many times before it finally happened. That is the nature of this sport. You get a little closer and then something trips you up and you start to wonder how it will ever happen, or will it ever happen."- he continued.

Lando Norris
Lando Norris© Clive Mason/Getty Images Sport

Despite the setbacks, Hill highlights the importance of maintaining focus and perseverance. He suggests that by staying committed and consistently performing at a high level, opportunities will inevitably present themselves. Drawing from his own experience, Hill mentions that sustained effort led to increased success in his career. He expresses confidence that Norris can follow a similar trajectory and achieve greater triumphs in the future.

Addressing the impact of a prolonged wait for a first win on a driver's mentality, Hill suggests it's more about frustration than psychological doubt. He explains that drivers, including Lando Norris, already believe they have the ability to win if the right circumstances align. 

Lando Norris is still a 24-year-old with a promising career ahead of him. It's true that when things aren't going ideally, it's difficult to remain equally motivated and ready to prove the haters wrong. However, Norris has remained persistent, showing that he has the capacity to defeat anyone. Racing in the era of Max Verstappen, especially now when he's never been more dominant, and winning, is truly a significant achievement. The most important thing for Norris is that he has proven to himself that he can achieve success. Now, it's just crucial that he continues at the same pace.

Winning simply confirms what they already knew. Hill mentions that achieving victory can also upset others, as it elevates the winning driver above those who haven't yet secured a win. 

Lando Norris delighted after the victory in Miami

His happiness could be felt after Miami. Norris had been waiting for such a moment for a long time. The pressure he felt from fans' criticisms on social media was only motivation for him to give his best and prove them wrong. Norris felt good during the race, aware that they had the necessary pace. He emphasized that they had a perfect strategy, and things paid off.

"About time, huh?" Norris said.

“The whole weekend has been good. I’ve had a few setbacks along the way. I knew on Friday we had the pace and just a couple of mistakes here and there but today we managed to put it together, we put the perfect strategy, it all paid off."

The upcoming races could demonstrate whether the young Briton's victory was a fluke or if McLaren truly has the potential, along with Norris, to achieve more wins. Lando has no doubt that his team can once again find themselves on the podium as winners.

Time will tell what we can expect from McLaren.

Lando Norris