How Lando Norris became a fan favorite with his close connection to his fans – and his iconic Twitch streams.
“I’m so happy! GG boys! Thanks for all the hard work” – Lando Norris’ reaction to his first ever podium in Formula 1 at the Austrian Grand Prix 2020 perfectly summarizes his personality. Jolly, wholesome, respectful to his team – and a true gamer. Which other F1 driver would end his race with a “GG” and then go on to play Call of Duty in his hotel room afterwards?
Only Lando would: the 20-year-old half-Britain, half-Belgian. Famous for drinking milk, for his potential to be a future F1 world champion, for his humble yet open attitude and for his legendary Twitch streams that entertained the racing community during the past months.
Lando Norris – the youngest driver on the grid, but one of the fan favorites
At only 20 years old, Lando became the third youngest podium finisher in the history of F1 – behind Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, two of his current competitors. The youngster was also able to achieve his first fastest lap at the Red Bull Ring that Sunday, the 5 July 2020. But behind this success story, there is an experienced career.
As a child, Lando was originally interested in motorbikes – mainly because of his hero Valentino Rossi. He started to watch the nine-time motorcycle world champion on TV at only four years old and until today, Rossi is one of his biggest idols as he told Crash.net:
“He was the guy who when I was such a young kid, I looked up to, and I dreamt of being like him in many ways. There are still things and characteristics that maybe I have which are similar to him, like my helmet design and the colours, and just things I like to do.”
However, father of the racing star, the wealthy pensions manager Adam Norris, set the course for Lando’s future career: he took his children to watch karting events which quickly sparked his son’s interest. Lando then started karting on his own at the age of seven. Fast forward eight years, and he claimed the trophy at the CIK-FIA KF World Championship – which makes him the youngest karting world championship winner.
Lando quickly raced through his career path with success. In 2018, he finished the Formula 2 season in second place and was also chosen as test driver for McLaren. One year later, at just 19 years old, he started at the pinnacle of motorsports: Formula 1. After an 11th place finish in his debut year, McLaren extended his contract. He currently stands at 6th place in the 2020 season, proving his skill.
While he is currently the youngest of all active 20 F1 drivers, he has one of the biggest fanbases. But how so? Because he knows how to connect with and entertain his fans in the virtual realms.
How Lando became the unofficial face of F1 esports
Lando heralds a new generation of Formula 1 stars. Open towards their fans, approachable, even outside the racetrack. The Briton has a bevy of followers on all social media channels, most importantly on Twitch, one of Lando’s most favourite pastime activities. It is no secret that the meme lord is not only proficient when it comes to joking around in his famous Lando Logs on YouTube, but he is also a true gamer. Racing titles have always been part of his video game library, as he told Autoexpress:
“I’ve been playing on PlayStation and Gran Turismo for many years, since I was five years old, with a little steering wheel and pedals”
Can’t believe I went from a Full time @Twitch streamer to 3rd youngest ever F1 podium finisher in a matter of days….— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) July 6, 2020
Whether it is Call of Duty, Fall Guys or classic racing games, the streamer has a passion for all kinds of games. He plays casually with well-known influencers such as TimTheTatman, Noel Miller or Cody Ko, and also supports the competitive scene of esports racing, such as participating in nearly all major tournaments during the coronavirus period.
While he has also been streaming for quite some time, McLaren’s flagship driver started to gain significant attention during the lockdown period and digital F1 season. As an article from inews.co.uk recounts, Lando had around 185,000 followers on Twitch before the lockdown hit the world. Now, he stands at over 618,000 fans on the platform.
Lando’s engagement on social media and Twitch brings two important aspects: he singlehandedly boosted esports racing’s popularity, and also introduced a new type of F1 driver to the world. Traditionally, despite F1 racers being international superstars, they tend to live their lives off-camera and only engage in racing activities. A prime example would be Finnish legend Kimi Räikkönen who represents the other on of the spectrum. Terse, quiet, private and self-contained. Lando is the polar opposite: open, jolly, engaging and inviting.
With his success on Twitch and social media, his fellow F1 friends such as Max Verstappen, George Russell, Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc all started to follow his example and dive into the realm of streaming as well. And it’s not only F1 that benefits his rise in popularity, but the esports racing scene in general, which experienced a high due to his support. Dominic Sacco from the British eSports Association explained:
“The likes of Lando Norris, I think they’re helping normalise eSports. Their fans, who might not be experienced at eSports, might want to beat their time, and that’s where you can get some really talented players come through.”
Wholesomeness instead of the cold shoulder
Aside from joking around with his friends and entertaining the community, Lando also realized the responsibility that comes with such a large following – and how to use it for good, as he told ESPN:
“I’ve started to understand the impact I can have on not just things I play normally but also messages I can get out – whether it’s racism or Black Lives Matter, or raising money for different charities.”
In addition to being an advocate for equality and BLM, he even shaved his head live on Twitch as part of Twitch’s ‘Stream Aid’ to raise money for coronavirus charities. Recently, Lando made the headlines again with a wholesome act: despite being the star of McLaren, he helped the mechanics to clear up after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – 3 long weeks for my team. Thought they could use a couple more hands. 🧡 pic.twitter.com/4LIizGuDh8— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) July 19, 2020
His sincere interactions with team-mates and friends is one reason for his popularity. That he voluntarily interacts with the camera and creates a close tie with his community is another one. And of course, the more popular Lando gets, the more young fans get hyped for Formula 1 – and McLaren. The CEO of the orange speedsters, Zak Brown, even went so far as to call Lando the potential ambassador of Formula 1. Regardless of whether or not Lando has truly started a minor revolution in the world of real and virtual racing, one thing is certain: he has established himself as one of the fan’s favorites.