Lando Norris eager to use his voice after Sebastian Vettel influence

Thomas Maher
Lando Norris leaning over a fence. Baku June 2022.

McLaren driver Lando Norris speaks while leaning on a fence. Baku June 2022.

Lando Norris is eager to follow in Sebastian Vettel’s footsteps in learning to speak out and raise awareness for off-track matters.

The McLaren driver has said that Sebastian Vettel’s willingness to show support for or speak out against environmental and social issues has been a lesson he wants to take into his own future.

In recent years, Vettel has become a willing activist in using his status to highlight issues he feels are important to him, such as the impact of environmental damage in some countries F1 races in, LGBTQ+ rights in others, or racial issues elsewhere.

Vettel, together with fellow multiple World Champion Lewis Hamilton, has actively used his position within the sport to cast a spotlight where he wishes, a position a driver with his pedigree can afford to take – perhaps moreso than those who have yet to achieve the same success.

Lando Norris is yet to win a race in F1, but the 22-year-old is eager to be in a position to use his own rising star for good in the same vein as Vettel did during his career.

Lando Norris highlights the importance of ‘off-track stuff’

Norris has spoken out about his mental health struggles in the past, including a battle with depression during his debut season in the sport – an eye-opening admission from the young driver as Norris highlighted the importance of being open with such issues.

With Vettel retiring from F1, Norris said the German driver’s legacy of highlighting issues is as memorable as his racing success.

“I think probably one of the most important things is, nowadays, it’s not so much about what you do on track, it’s the off-track stuff,” Norris told Sky F1 in Abu Dhabi.

“That is just as important now, in many ways – the influence we can have on youngsters, on the new audience that we have in Formula 1.

“I’m maybe a bit more shy than what Seb is, and has been in Formula 1, but I’ll learn. It’s about speaking the truth, speaking about honesty, and standing for your opinions – not just about racing things but also a lot of stuff that Seb has done.”

Norris explained he’s felt ‘honoured’ to race against Vettel on track during the four seasons their careers overlapped, and said he’s keen to learn to use his status in the same way Vettel did.

“I guess some people are criticised because Formula 1 is about racing at the end of the day, but at the same time I think I’m lucky to have been able to race against Seb the last few years,” Norris commented.

“A four-time World Champion, one of the best drivers in Formula 1 ever. Things like that, I feel honoured to be part of.

“But, also the off-track stuff, a lot that I’ve learned from Seb. I just need to learn to voice and just [use] what voice I have, I guess, more importantly. The things I can speak out on, and I guess mental health has been one that I’ve done a lot of, but I can always do more.

“There’s plenty of other things for me to speak out about, but they’ll come with time, so I thank Seb for all of that.”

Sebastian Vettel: Stand up for the things important to you

Appearing alongside Norris, Vettel was asked about the legacy he’s left behind for the younger drivers who assume a place of prominence as the older guard move on.

“It’s other people who get to decide what a legacy is, but I don’t think… you can try to actively have an influence on that, but I’m not sure it’s really the way it should be,” he said.

“I think you should just be yourself. There was one Jenson [Button], there is one Lando, there was one version of me, one Damon [Hill], and, as much as you have role models and you try to learn things here and there, you still have to find your own way, you have to find what works for you and stand up for the things that are important to you.

“It doesn’t have to be the same for all of us. That would be a shame because we’re all different and I think it’s celebrating that diversity in many ways and learning to speak up for it because, at the end of the day, it is a massive joy to drive these cars, to live that life, to have people working so hard for you day in day out to make your car, your day, your race, just a little bit better.

“But, with that, I think comes also a little bit of responsibility that you might not be aware of when you’re young and that’s good. But you are able to grow with the experience with time and try and give a little bit back and it means the world to people to stand up for some of the things that are important to you and express your opinion.”

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