Ask the question, “Which Toyota Racing Series graduate is most likely to be first to win a Formula One Grand Prix?” The resounding answer is likely to be Lando Norris.
The current McLaren F1 driver won the 2016 TRS title from Indian Jehan Daruvala with Kiwi Brendon Leitch third. Given the 2019 form McLaren displayed in coming home fourth overall in the F1 constructors title, Norris has displayed that he is a potential Grand Prix winner. It will be a matter of when, not if.
It was the 12th running of the Toyota Racing Series with 15 races held over five consecutive weekends beginning in January 2016. Nineteen drivers competed in all races with Australian Thomas Randle returning to the series for the final NZ Grand Prix round at Manfeild Park in Feilding.
Ferdinand Habsburg won the opening race at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch. Norris won the second but it was Daruvala who won the prestigious Lady Wigram Trophy. It was a wet third race and from starting 17th on the grid, he took a gamble on tyres which paid off giving him the victory.
The whole field had started on slick tyres despite the damp conditions which became more treacherous as drizzle continued to fall. Daruvala’s team (M2 Competition) elected to bring him into the pits to change tyres in the expectation there would be further incidents on the increasingly greasy track.
It was the right call as the safety car was called out a second and third time.
On the third restart Daruvala had only one other car on wet tyres in front of him, Pedro Piquet, who became involved in an incident on the track and spun off. Daruvala with more grip in the conditions was able to pass Norris and Artem Markelov (Russia) to take the lead just two laps before another incident brought the safety car out again and the race was stopped.
Daruvala was to win three races and stand on the podium six times but it was Norris who had 11 podiums including six race victories, wrapping up the series title with one race to spare.
Heading into the final round, Norris had a 86-point lead over nearest rival Brazilian Pedro Piquet. However, Piquet dropped to fifth overall after a retirement in the first race of the NZ Grand Prix weekend dented his title run.
Sixteen-year-old Norris led the 35-lap Grand Prix from start to finish, claiming that ‘It’s the longest race I’ve ever done!”
Later that year Norris announced in November that he would return to defend his title. However, having won the McLaren Autosport Award he soon announced that he wouldn’t contest the 2017 series due to commitments with the British Racing Drivers Club in January 2017.
2015 Toyota Racing Series Overall Points
1/ Lando Norris 924
2/ Jehan Daruvala 789
3/ Brendon Leitch 754
4/ Ferdinand Habsburg 727
5/ Pedro Piquet 710
6/ Guanyu Zhou 685
7/ James Munro 621
8/ Artem Markelov 588
9/ Taylor Cockerton 545
10/ Devlin DeFrancesco 465
11/ Bruno Baptista 443
12/ Antoni Ptak Jr. 426
13/ Kami Laliberté 386
14/ Will Owen 357
15/ Timothé Buret 349
16/ Rodrigo Baptista 286
17/ Nicolas Dapero 238
18/ Theo Bean 238
19/ Julian Hanses 226
20/ Thomas Randle 89