British Formula 1 driver Lando Norris has revealed he was receiving death threats on social media while his girlfriend faced ‘horrific’ abuse.
The 22-year-old McLaren driver quickly became a motorsport superstar, scoring an impressive six podiums in his first 69 races.
The Bristol-born ace is part of a new generation of pilots, opening up about their lives via video game streaming, which has its pros and cons.
Norris has been able to use his platform to talk about mental health issues, with McLaren now sponsored by the charity Mind, but there is still work to be done when it comes to social media companies.
“I get death threats from time to time,” he admitted ahead of his home Grand Prix. “Most people do. We don’t do enough and it’s difficult.
“If I had seen the threats when I started in 2019 it would have had more effect, but now I understand when to laugh – not laugh at a death threat – but laugh at the silly comments that people do and the things they do. try to create to attract attention.
“I want to run, travel the world, meet new people and create new experiences – and they’re using their only life sitting behind a computer in their bedroom trying to ruin and annoy and bully someone.”
Norris also opened up about the abuse suffered by his girlfriend, Luisinha Oliveira, since they went public with their relationship.
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He said: “The number of hate pages on social media dedicated to Luisinha is now quite awful. Instagram and Twitter are the main ones and it’s not an easy thing for her.
“She’s gone from having a fairly normal life to suddenly having a lot of followers, so she has to be more careful about what she says and does.
“It’s hard for her to get involved in it so quickly. At least in racing, you go through it slowly and learn to adapt to it – from Formula 4, Formula 3, Formula 2 and then Formula 1. .
“But going from never watching a Formula 1 race to suddenly being in the limelight is extremely difficult and then having to read the comments too. I want to protect her from that.
Despite the abuse, Norris is adamant it won’t change a personality that has seen him gain fans around the world.
Conversely, he feels the pressure has affected others on the grid, including his friend and Mercedes driver George Russell.
“My manager, my trainer, my parents always tried to keep me like me, rather than trying to shape me,” he said.
“I see other drivers training more because of who they are, the teams they’re with, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. It takes away their personality.
“Growing up with George, for example, was a lot of fun. He was a great person, but it’s different at Mercedes – a different vibe and a different atmosphere. I just don’t see a fun side to him.
“George is a great person, and I feel like the personality he had a few years ago, he would be even more popular.
“I don’t think it’s Mercedes’ fault, but the pressure of being with Mercedes and having Lewis as a teammate will never be an easy thing.
“You don’t want to be seen having fun and playing, but on the other side there are no complaints because George is doing an amazing job this year so it’s working for him.”