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Norris 'flattered' by Toro Rosso interest

Lando Norris, McLaren, Hungaroring test
© XPB 

McLaren's official test and reserve driver Lando Norris has admitted that he's 'flattered' by a reported approach from Toro Rosso for his services.

The team is believed to be looking for a mid-season replacement for Brendon Hartley. The Kiwi has failed to live up to Dr Helmut Marjo's expectations since being given his F1 début in last year's United States Grand Prix.

Pascal Wehrlein, Antonio Giovinazzi, Artem Markelov, Jake Dennis and Sean Galael have all been linked with Hartley's race seat in the last few weeks.

Now Norris is the latest name in the frame, after media reports that McLaren has rejected an approach by Toro Rosso that would have seen him loaned out to the Italian squad from the Austrian Grand Prix.

"I'm flattered by the stories," Norris admitted on Wednesday. "But I'm focussed on F2 and committed to McLaren. I leave this sort of thing to my management."

Alongside his F1 testing duties, Norris is currently leading in the Formula 2 championship where he is driving for Carlin.

The 18-year-old from Glastonbury previously won the 2017 European Formula 3 title and drove alongside Fernando Alonso in this year's 24 Hours of Daytona.

He's considered to be in pole position for the F1 seat at McLaren next season, if Alonso decides to quit Grand Prix racing in favour of a switch to full-time sportscar competition.

The two-time world champion is about to embark on his first Le Mans 24 Hours campaign in the week between the Canadian and French Grands Prix.

Understandably, Norris won't wont to do anything to rock the boat or put that next step in his meteoric rise in jeopardy.

Toro Rosso's offer would have reportedly tied up Norris beyond just the 2018 season, which would have ruled him out of replacing Alonso. Second McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne is also out of contract at the end of this year.

Red Bull could try again in October. It is at this point that Norris apparently needs to be either signed up by McLaren for 2019, or released.

In the meantime, the team wants to keep its driver options open, and seemed quite amused at the interest in Norris from Toro Rosso.

"We are not surprised that other teams approach our drivers," said a McLaren spokesperson. "They clearly believe they are as talented as we do."

Toro Rosso has declined to make a public statement about the reports.

Hartley has also refused to comment on the latest speculation. He had previously pointed out that he has a contract in place with the team and that he expected to see out 2018 at Toro Rosso.

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