Lando Norris could be replacing Jenson Button as McLaren’s third driver in 2018 according to racing director Eric Boullier.
Button retired from Formula One at the end of last season, but remained with McLaren in an ambassadorial role and as their third (reserve) driver.
The 2009 F1 championship winner has been used once this season as he replaced Fernando Alonso during the Monaco Grand Prix while the Spaniard opted to participate in the Indy 500 instead.
However, it appears Button is likely to leave the role after admitting at the Japanese Grand Prix that he wants to return to full-time racing, meaning McLaren will need to find a new reserve.
Speaking at the Suzuka circuit, Boullier admitted that the British teenager, who is on the verge of winning the FIA European Formula 3 title, could be in contention to replace Button.
"I think Jenson is looking for a full-time racing seat, and obviously we don't have any," he said.
"But he is an ambassador and we would be happy to keep working with him in a role that suits both parties. But as far as racing is concerned we have nothing to offer to him.
"If Jenson has no role here then of course we need a new (reserve) driver. We have to prepare.
"Lando could be one of them. If he wins Formula 3, which is very likely, then he will have enough points to get a superlicence."
Norris currently holds an impressive 72-point lead at the top of the Formula 3 championship and is due to secure the title this weekend at Hockenheim, providing he avoids the freakishly unlikely scenario of scoring less than two points and having his closest rival Maximilian Gunther win three races.
The youngster has already impressed during his short career, with his first official day in an F1 car particularly catching the eye. He ended up posting the second fastest time of the Hungarian Test, second only to Sebastian Vettel.
McLaren’s executive director Zak Brown insisted that he believed that Norris was fast enough to race in F1 but that they wanted to carefully manage his development.
"Our current plan is to put him in Formula 2 (next year)," said Brown.
"I certainly think he's fast enough to be in Formula 1 but we don't want to rush things.
"He's definitely our star of the future and we won't put him in another Formula 1 team at this point."
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