Opinion

BUXTON: The posts, the stories and the reels can write themselves now – it’s Lando 'No Wins' no more

F1 Digital Presenter

Will Buxton
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Lando “No Wins,” no more. The cruel moniker, made famous by his detractors in the social media landscape he has inhabited since childhood, is no longer relevant for a racer whose time was always due to come.

That he referenced his critics and the trolls, not just in post-race interviews but on his slow down lap, reflects the very real impact that social media has on the modern racer.

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No matter how often they say they don’t read the press, don’t read reports, don’t read the replies, the truth is that the backlash and negativity can become an unhealthy addiction in the modern age.

They might account for only a marginal percentage of the many thousands of messages sent and received, but rest assured, their impact is felt heavier than the positive ones whose influence you’d imagine would be more keenly felt.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 05: Race winner Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren celebrates victory

Lando Norris secured a spectacular first F1 win in Miami

That Lando is part of a generation who has grown up within the constant glare and life-changing bubble of mass social media, should not be mistaken for a caveat that it affects them any less than for those of us who can remember a time before even mobile phones. All it takes is one word of hurt to replace the bright light of glory with the darkness of anxiety and despair.

He was a social media star before he’d so much as stepped foot in a Formula 2 car, famous as much for his online presence as for his scintillating teenage racing prowess, which saw him notch up European and World karting titles before an astonishing introduction to car racing that saw him amass a whopping five championship titles in his first three seasons of single seater racing.

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It was his humour, the child-like love of the sport and life, leaning into the memes and embracing the opportunities a rapidly evolving digital landscape represented that made him one of racing’s youngest and breakout stars of the new media.

How much of that was him personally, and how much of that was a brilliantly executed media strategy, became perhaps apparent on first meeting. Because the real Lando was, while not shy and timid, certainly not the confident banter machine his online presence would have had you believe.

And how could he be? It's easy to forget just how young he actually was when this was all going on. He was named McLaren’s F1 test and reserve driver while competing in F3 at just 17 years of age. He made his first practice appearance aged 18. He made his Grand Prix debut at 19.

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A year later, and while living alone at the age of 20, the world locked down. He, like so many, plugged himself in online and raced against his friends. He became an early star of Twitch, every second of his many hours spent online broadcast to an increasing fanbase.

How many of us have a true handle on who we are at that age and under those circumstances? How many at 30? 40?

The modern world of social media gives us but a snapshot of reality. We’re often told, for our own mental health, not to base considerations of our own life on the all too perfect versions of other’s that we see online. Because only a fraction of what we see of those we follow should be taken as being the whole truth.

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Lando has provided consistently high scoring content from an engagement perspective. Be it the clip worthy radio messages and singalongs, his photography exploits, or his outings with celebrity friends, anything in which he’s involved is played out far and wide, shared by the almost 11 million followers he now has across just Instagram and X.

The dark side of this of course comes in the form of a deeper fascination and fanaticism. There’s a mob mentality which can be stirred up in his name and against his will in aggressive defense at the slightest perceived slight, while opposing factions have directed similarly awful messages at him, too.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 05: Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 Team celebrates his win

There is far more to Lando Norris than the component parts of the online personality

It's little wonder that as time marched on, as seasons came and went and the promise of a race-winning car dissolved from expectation into mere hope time and again, the shiny veneer could slip. Where he’d been jokey with the media before, little barbs started to appear. An occasional chippiness.

Held in isolation, easy to query whether the digital version no longer reflected the reality of the man. In context, easy to acknowledge the very real burden he was carrying. Because the true measure of Lando Norris is far more than the component parts of the online personality.

There’s a Lando few see. The same guy who, from karts all the way through his career, likes to take his racing machines apart with the crew. Who, when he was a reserve at McLaren, would always be found with a high viz vest on a Sunday night, packing up the garage.

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Should flights allow, he still likes to get his hands dirty. Its one of many reasons why McLaren adore him and won’t hear a word against him. His work ethic, his loyalty and his humility are key facets of the man. Yet its not often the one you’ll see on his profiles.

The universal outpouring of joy in his victory tells you another side to him. Its rare in the highly competitive world of Formula 1 to make many true friends. To a man, I can’t think of a driver who wasn’t delighted for him in Miami. I haven’t seen Max Verstappen as happy all year, and he’s won pretty much everything. That affection is real. The friendships are true.

And as he brought his car to the pits, after acknowledging those who try to drag him down, he spoke words for the truly private man. For his parents and his grandmother. The part of his life he keeps closest and most guarded.

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For his entire Formula 1 career, he’s had to be what people expect of him. Carry the weight of manifesting the legend of the version of himself he’d always portrayed himself as being. As he grew from teenager into adulthood, an ever growing fanbase of millions expected him perhaps never to change and to always stay the same.

On Sunday he received the only reply he’s ever sought. Validation. A Grand Prix winner. Just as he always knew he would and could be.

What stands before him now is a level of freedom he has never known, to truly embrace the destiny that stands before him.

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Beyond the memes, the engagement, the lifetime lived in the spotlight of social media stardom, the witty quips and the potential to be the perfect media personality, there has always existed the hunger of the competitor. The desire to be the best. To win it all.

The posts, the stories, the reels. They can write themselves now.

The man, not the meme. Lando “No Wins,” no more.

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