WHY DO FANS LOVE DRIVERS WITH ONLINE PRESENCES?
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Lando Norris is known for his joking personality and online antics, but why do young fans love drivers that use social media?
When Lando Norris earned his first podium on the first race of his second F1 season, his response to his team over the radio was “GG boys”, a phrase which older viewers could be excused for not understanding. The abbreviation means “good game”, and it’s widely used after winning online, for example.
The 20-year-old from Somerset is widely known for his internet personality, and jokingly referred to himself during lockdown as a “full-time streamer, part-time racing driver”. Many other drivers did stream on Twitch during this part of the year, most regularly Charles Leclerc, but Lando Norris seems to have mastered the internet “thing”.
As a young person who grew up watching YouTube and Twitch creators, I think Lando fits right in. He’s played Call of Duty games with some of the world’s best gamers like Mutex and Vikkstar123, and competed in multiple online GPs with YouTuber and F1 fan WillNE. The background music on his latest stream was from a copyright-free playlist by Zerkaa, a member of The Sidemen, almost entirely consisting of songs by creators such as Sarah Close. Zerkaa himself has a 2020 F1 game series, where he uses Norris’ character in his team. Analytics on a recent Sidemen video showed that 1 in 20 of all Brits had seen the video - it’s no wonder younger fans are discovering Norris.
Norris isn’t the only driver with a massive young fanbase, though. Charles Leclerc had a big fanbase (although his comments on the Black Lives Matter movement have somewhat diminished this), and Alex Albon and George Russell are fan favourites too, despite a lesser social media presence. Their popularity is for a similar reason, though - having fun.
In the past, drivers were loved for their extravagant lifestyle and above-thee attitude (think James Hunt or Kimi Raikkonen in Abu Dhabi). Today, young fans expect more realism, and that’s due to the attitudes of celebrities they’ve grown up with, most of which became famous through online platforms. The casual nature of YouTube and social media mean that our idols’ personalities and lives are documented in more detail and often in a more personal way: as a result, we expect drivers to have the same attitude. When you’re used to seeing the Sidemen make rap songs out of their drama and exposing each other’s secrets over a beat, to then post it online, it’s enjoyable to see drivers carry the same casual attitude.
It’s one of the reasons why people love the “rookie trio”. Russell, Albon and Norris have always had some of the most aggressive and thrilling battles on track, but of it, they’re good mates. F1’s “Rookie Of The Year” video has over 2 million views on YouTube, and features the three Brits poking fun at each other’s on-track performances. Similar is a recent post on George Russell’s Instagram, where Norris comments on his driving, and Russell replies with a self-depreciating joke about his performance this year.
It’s the just drivers, too. Despite the constant controversy Racing Point have been in this year, their less serious Twitter presence has made them a fan favourite online, and after being served a fine and a points deduction, the team’s social media reaction was simply a GIF. Even the FIA themselves have gotten involved; the official F3 account used Dea (who’s Twitter is @landonorris)’s safety car ‘fancam’ to announce a safety car. A fancam is a kind of video edit primarily used by K-Pop stans.
Other drivers with notable online presences are Oscar Piastri, the F3 favourite who regularly jokes about his (seemingly constant, the poor guy) DRS problems, and Callum Ilott, who, despite suffering a painful loss on Saturday’s race, used Twitter to congratulate the winner and ‘blame’ WTF1’s Matt Gallagher for jinxing him. Jack Aitken also uses Twitter regularly to answer questions and talk to fans (generally to tease merch, though).
Young fans like to see honesty, and they like to see drivers getting along. Rivalries are thrilling, but friendships are entertaining too - a prime example is Norris, Verstappen and Russell all exchanging on-track waves during practice recently. With a generation that’s more socially aware than ever, constant displays of wealth and superiority are more cringe-worthy than impressive. The new Formula 1 generation, along with F2’s wide array of young talent, seems to having more fun.
Fans are having fun, too.
Do you think online presences and driver friendships are good for the sport? Drop a comment and let me know! Award Amelia