Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel has become somewhat outspoken in recent years, publicly raising awareness about pressing issues such as climate change and societal inequality. Vettel is not the only driver to draw attention to important issues however, his friend and rival Lewis Hamilton has campaigned vehemently to raise awareness off and break down the barriers people of colour and other marginalised communities face in the sport.
While both Vettel and Hamilton are in the later stages of their careers, Lando Norris having debuted in Formula 1 in 2019 has become the latest in the list of drivers to speak out about issues which they are passionate about. Specifically drawing attention to the issue of mental health, even speaking openly of his own struggles brought on by the stresses of the sport.
Naturally, Norris was quizzed on the potential of him stepping up to fill the space left behind by Sebastian Vettel in terms of speaking up for those who cannot be heard when the German driver retires at the end of this season.
“A little bit,” said Norris when asked if he might take on a more proactive role. “I’m not gonna fill his boots. I don’t think anyone in their first five years of Formula 1 is going to fill the boots of a guy that’s in their final year of Formula 1.
“The Seb [Vettel] of now is a very different Seb to the Seb of five or ten years ago. The ruthless Seb doesn’t look so ruthless anymore, if multi-21 came back he might abide by it this time,” he joked. “It’s very difficult and I don’t think you can put pressure on any driver, any young driver to say ‘why aren’t you doing what Seb’s doing?’ Young Seb wasn’t doing what Seb is doing now."
Norris continued to say in no uncertain terms that there is no reason he wouldn’t get involved, but also expresses the sentiment that each person is different and not everyone wants to get involved.
“Everyone’s different. Some people want to stay out of it completely and some people want to help. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t want to speak up and say things. It’s just that the world we’re living in now it’s not easy to say what I feel and just give my opinion because there’s so many people who will criticise that opinion.”
Norris also praised Vettel’s approach, saying he believes he is achieving his goal by making headlines and thus raising awareness of the issues which he speaks about.
“I believe Seb is saying everything and doing everything that he can for the best reason. He’s creating chit-chat and he’s creating headlines which is his whole thing he’s trying to do.
“He’s created stuff out of it and he’s doing exactly what he wants to do. I have a lot of respect for that.”
Norris was also asked if the potential online backlash he might receive was a consideration in his thought process when considering speaking up on some topics. The young McLaren man admitted that online abuse does play on his mind in those situations.
“Always,” he said. “I feel like, if I just said something now as an easy example. If I just said something now about whatever, it comes out tomorrow and I make a mistake on Sunday everyone’s just going to say ‘oh shut up and concentrate on Formula 1.’
“It’s not like I’m not concentrating on Formula 1, it’s just that I’ve said five or six words and people think I don’t care about my job and I don’t want to do well anymore.
“I do speak out. I do say things and I try to help out where I can.”