Lando Norris is a future Formula One world champion but should not be compared with Lewis Hamilton, according to McLaren chief executive Zak Brown.
Teenager Norris is set to become the youngest F1 driver in British history after being promoted ahead of the 2019 season.
The 18-year-old’s rise to the pinnacle of the sport has drawn immediate comparisons to four-time champion Hamilton, who was 22 when he burst on to the scene for McLaren in 2007.
Brown has backed Norris for success but does not want him to be burdened by trying to emulate the achievements of one of the sport’s greats.
“He’s unbelievably gifted, we just need to make sure we mature him into the sport the right way,” Brown said of Norris.
“What I think he is is a future world champion.
“I think people ask about the Lewis comparison because he’s British and McLaren, as opposed to is he the next Michael Schumacher, because what’s the difference between Michael and Lewis? I think it’s the British world champion thing.
“We don’t want to draw comparisons to other drivers, that’s part of what might put too much pressure on him too quickly.
“We think he’s a future world champion; Lewis is a unique individual who may go down as the most successful Formula One driver ever.”
Norris, signed by Britain’s most successful team last year, has impressed in the McLaren car in recent practice sessions at the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix.
He will team up with Spaniard Carlos Sainz, replacing Stoffel Vandoorne.
American Brown broke the news to Norris at Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix in Monza and was pleased with his level-headed reaction.
“I pulled him into my office and said, ‘welcome to Formula One’,” added Brown.
“He’s quite a relaxed character so he didn’t jump up and down on the sofa like Tom Cruise on David Letterman, or whatever show that was.
“Emotionally I don’t see him get wound up, which is a good personality trait for Formula One because he’ll have some adversity at some point and you need to be able to power through that.”
Englishman Norris, from Glastonbury in Somerset, is flattered with being likened to defending champion Hamilton.
He is a big admirer of his 33-year-old compatriot, but admits his childhood hero was motorcyclist Valentino Rossi.
“I never idolised him; he was a driver who growing up I watched and admired,” Norris said of Hamilton.
“My idol and the guy I’ve always looked up to is Rossi. He was the first guy I really started supporting when I was six-years-old.
“I think being able to be compared in any way to Lewis is more good than bad.
“It’s a cool thing to think about but I’m not in Formula One just yet so I still need to perform when I go into F1 to live up to the expectations.”
Despite the imminent prospect of fame and fortune, Norris – who currently competes in Formula Two – intends to remain grounded and prioritise his career.
“The position I am in now, instead of taking in all the glory, I think it’s better I focus on the job itself,” he added.
“I’m not going to be going out buying fancy stuff. I don’t normally live like that anyway, buying super nice clothes and whatever.
“I don’t think I’ve ever spent over £1,000 on anything.”