It is easy to tell we have entered a new era, when you notice that an instastory counts as news material or a fan video from the track can be used as “unseen footage” giving a different perspective of an episode.
Mostly futile and light-hearted content shared by drivers on social media can spark a debate or start a trend, as -just to point out the most reliable and suitable example- Norris and Sainz’s car videos soon became a viral challenge.
Social media have become an extension of the drivers’ careers and lives, as training, funny content and proper news are being shared on a regular basis.
Social media have played a key role in building and promoting Hamilton’s strong image, from partnerships to distinguishing marks as his dogs, family and lifestyle. The Briton has been a pioneer and arguably the cleverest social media user among the F1 paddock, taking advantage of all the tools offered by these platforms to further connect with the audience through his character.
However, what is mostly relished by the F1 community is, surprisingly, watching happenings everyone could easily relate to, from pranks to misfortunes in the everyday life. Therefore, the “invincible and unapproachable” aura that usually surrounds F1 drivers is dissolved and replaced by a more endearing image. More mediatic attention and fan consensus are likely to attract sponsors, hence the importance of having a socially strong figure (or even pairing) for a team.
Norris and Sainz possibly embody the greatest example of a successful duo, which actively participates in McLaren’s brilliant fan engagement. Both drivers can be classified as proper content creators, constantly feeding the internet with delicious social life bits. Launching challenges and getting fans involved contributed to the strengthening of their brand and their popularity. This quality resonates with the approach of many teams towards their fans, as social media is being used to allow them to get closer, from paddock passes and events to guided tours of the headquarters. This way, the lucky fans will become ambassadors of the team in their own right, promoting its image across the F1 community. And obviously, having popular drivers bearing the colours and sharing the spirit of the team by all means does not hurt.
Liberty Media prompted the social revolution, by underlining how important social platforms are to increase the popularity of the sport among the Gen-Z, F1’s ultimate target.
However, some drivers opposed a fair amount of resistance towards the widespread and ever-growing social media trend among the most prominent F1 personalities. Kimi Raikkonen often emerged as one of the most recalcitrant, but in the end jumped on the bandwagon of Instagram and strengthened his image through his laconic captions and somewhat hilarious posts.
Vettel never manifested the intention of appearing on social media, as he also questioned the “realness” of the content users decide to share.
“Platforms do exactly the opposite of what they claim” he told Auto Motor und Sport.
“They do not show the real picture. If you have millions of followers, then no photo goes out uncensored.”
Moreover, the German has always preferred to keep his personal life very private. For instance, the name of his third child, born just before the Abu Dhabi GP weekend, is still uncertain.
Will the social media trend engage even the most reluctant drivers and F1 personalities? What do you think?