If you’ve been looking for a face to represent Gen Z in Formula 1, Lando Norris’s might just be this one. As one of F1’s most popular drivers, and perhaps the most active online, he fits the bill perfectly.
What sets Norris apart from many of his peers is his social media presence. He has 4.4 million followers on Instagram, 1.5 million on Twitter and 1.1 million on Twitch. His Instagram and Twitter numbers are poor compared to some F1 drivers, but it’s Twitch’s tracking that sets him apart.
In the first few months of the pandemic, Norris set streaming records as the world turned to online gaming instead of live sports. It’s not hard to see why Norris is loved by so many F1 fans. Beyond gaming and streaming, he has established himself as someone who deserves support on and off the right path.
On the track, he is one of the sport’s most exciting young talents, as evidenced this year by the fact that he has largely outperformed Daniel Ricciardo, one of the top-rated drivers on the grid. Off track, he has become a strong advocate for mental health awareness. Norris looks different from most F1 drivers of the same age.
The impact of his personality is obvious. A recent poll of 167,000 F1 fans found Norris to be the second most popular in the sport, behind current championship leader Max Verstappen and ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Considering he has four seasons less to his name than Verstappen, 12 less than Hamilton, and has yet to claim his first F1 victory, it’s not outrageous to suggest he could overtake some similar polls in a few years.
It all sounds good, but fame often comes at a price. You only have to talk to Norris for a few moments to see how much he genuinely appreciates and loves his fan base. But it’s also clear that being a popular young F1 driver today comes with a twist.
Dive below the surface of the community known collectively as “F1 Twitter” and you’ll find examples of a murky underworld online. It’s a part of the internet where a vocal and usually anonymous minority can thrive, and Norris has borne the brunt of it since its debut in 2019.
Unfortunately, it only got worse as his fame has exploded since. For example, the people he spends time with outside of F1 have sometimes been harassed and abused online simply because they are photographed with him – in today’s world it is extremely easy to find someone. ‘one in a few clicks.
“I think the only bad thing is just personal life with friends, people who through no fault of their own are sometimes put in the spotlight because they are seen with me or me following them on the networks. social or something, “Norris said in a recent interview with ESPN.
“I think that’s the worst part of it: someone who’s just laid back on his own and seen with me at dinner or on a post on Instagram. There are still a lot of mean fans, a lot of fans. who are just not nice and just use a lot of people and things like that.
“I would say that’s the worst thing about popularity, they’re those kinds of people. People who don’t respect your personal life at all and the people you hang out with etc. It’s definitely the worst. . “
When asked, there are a lot of self-proclaimed sleuths on social media these days who are able to find information about people without ever meeting them, Norris adds: “There are. very weird.
“Honestly, it’s very scary what some people do. The time they spend trying to investigate things or people or whatever.
“I laugh and I find it very funny, but it’s very weird. It’s just weird.”
While Norris has learned to deal with the things that come before him and accepted them as coming with the territory of being an F1 superstar, he draws a line from the abuses directed at his friends.
“It’s disrespectful, I think, to someone who through no fault of their own I guess because he’s my friend or something is being abused on social media because someone doesn’t like it. the top he’s wearing and that’s because he’s friends with me … shit like that.
“It’s the only thing I really hate about the position I’m in now.”
Beyond social media, Norris doesn’t care what level of attention he faces. As we talk about fame and his life off the circuit, he jokes that it made him realize that he has a personality trait that is unnecessary for these situations: an inability to say no to curious fans who want to chat or take a selfie in public.
“Sometimes if I’m just having dinner with friends … honestly, I don’t mind people coming over to do that. Of course, that might not be the nicest thing when you’re having dinner. and have people come and say “Can I have a quick pic please?”
“But I feel like I can’t say no! I feel like they would hate me and not be my fans anymore. I hate to say no, sometimes that’s a problem, can – being that I have to start saying no a little more often. But I’m having a hard time doing it. “
There were a little more unusual and uncomfortable situations. While talking about how some celebrities complain about being spotted and who they talk to in the urinals, Norris laughs.
“I got this one,” he says. “It’s really embarrassing.
“When they look, it’s like, okay, it’s weird. Then they look again, because you understand a lot, you stand there and they take a second look, you look back, there is this enormous awkwardness.
“Then they’re standing there talking to you, you’re like ‘oh, fuck.”
When asked if there is anything he could do to be less recognized in public, he replied, “There isn’t a lot you can do other than not go out!” There are some things you can do to be a little more hidden from the limelight.
“But that’s part of it, not just with Formula 1 drivers, but with people who become famous and a little more popular in whatever sport they play.”
Another of Norris’ traits, and which he attributes to his sanity awareness, is his sense of perspective. This is clear when he talks more generally about his growing fame and growing status in the sport.
“I’m not Lewis Hamilton yet. I’m not a seven-time world champion and known for a lot of other things like him. He’s also popular outside of Formula 1. I wouldn’t say I’m far from that level. .
“But, of course, with the charts that came out the other day being the second most popular… there are a lot of things the fans love me for that are different from other riders.
“It’s OK right now. Sometimes it’s a bit too much, but it’s still a good thing to have.”