Last weekend, Ugo Ugochukwu (USA) made his ADAC Formula 4 debut for Prema Racing. In doing so, the McLaren Junior is following in the footsteps of Lando Norris: the British driver can also trace his beginnings back to the ADAC’s talent factory and the F1 team’s trainee programme. The 22-year-old has gone on to race in Formula 1 since 2019.
Norris made his debut in the ADAC’s high-speed school at Spa-Francorchamps in 2015, and immediately secured his place in the list of race winners. The former McLaren Junior soon made a name for himself and was soon promoted to the pinnacle of motor racing, making his first appearance on the F1 grid at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Norris can now look back on 73 starts and six podiums. He is one of three current F1 drivers who have come through ADAC Formula 4: Germany’s Mick Schumacher is in his second season with the Haas F1 Team, while Zhou Guanyu (China) lines up in his first year with the Alfa Romeo F1 Team.
Ugochukwu signed a contract with the iconic British F1 team’s Junior squad at the age of 13. “The day I signed was fantastic, and a significant one in my life. The McLaren environment is a very good one, in which to develop as a driver and a person,” says the runner-up in the 2021 Karting European Championship, recalling the experience.
He is now following Norris’s route: however, the 15-year-old is still at the start of his career and made his ADAC Formula 4 debut last weekend on the former F1 track at the Nürburgring. “Lando Norris is a fantastic Formula 1 driver and I have already met him. He plays a very big role for McLaren. After all, he is heavily involved in the development of the team and the car. I hope, one day, to be of as much assistance to McLaren and to be able to give something back through my performances,” says the Prema driver.
To allow him to continue his development, he receives extensive support from the Formula 1 team. “They help me to become a better racing driver in virtually every regard. I especially receive a lot of support when it comes to fitness training and at the racetrack. For example, together with my driver coach I analyse the data from the car and watch onboard recordings. Furthermore, a physiotherapist occasionally travels with me to the circuit. I am also working with a nutritionist,” says Ugochukwu, explaining the content of the Junior programme.
He has a good relationship with McLaren CEO Zak Brown, and the 50-year-old American has been known to pop in and see him at the racetrack. “A few weeks ago, Zak Brown visited me at a race. That was fantastic, as I claimed my first victory with him watching,” says Ugochukwu, referring to his successful weekend in the English Formula 4 series. More wins look set to follow, as the talented youngster hopes to secure a seat of his own in a McLaren in a few years.