Conducted by Nakul Naik, Edited by Tay Rui En
Formula One’s social media base is a vast and vibrant one with thousands of content creators such as meme and fan pages, online magazines, news organisations, and so many more, posting their content daily to capture the constantly growing fanbase of the sport. However, few have come close to achieving the following and engagement that Lollipopman has accumulated by posting hilarious skits and comics that have earned him attention from the likes of Charles Leclerc and Mika Hakkinen.
How did you get into making content on Instagram?
Many years into following F1, I felt there existed this void for comic-content on the sport. I had seen a few classic ones detailing events from the 90s and early 2000s, but nothing regular for the era that I was following.
Then, one day in 2017 when I got myself a digital tablet and a pencil, I decided to draw a comic on a funny incident at the US Grand Prix podium interviews and posted it on social media. It gained some traction and I continued this for a few more races. It was towards the end of the 2017 season and over Christmas that I started an Instagram page and began putting in more consistent work into it.
What, generally, is the process that goes into making your content?
In the beginning, it was a simple 2D comic that I drew on my tablet, whenever I got a funny idea. It then evolved into a more active process where I used to note down events with potential humour, as the races happened. Over a few years, I realised the limitations of drawing in 2D, specifically, the difficulty in converting that into a video format.
Posting as images alone seriously limited the range of ways I could express an idea. That led to a chase for 3D. It was a steep and prolonged learning curve to start with, but I’m getting more comfortable with the process with time.
Now, my work process involves a more elaborate set of things I need to do such as designing ’skins’ for the models of all twenty drivers and cars on the grid as the season begins; hunting for ideas (it’s like a background process that keeps running in the mind all the time), script writing, recording, animating in a 3D software (modelling scenes and characters), editing (cuts, watermarks, subtitles), posting it on YouTube and re-editing the video to a reels format, and posting it to the rest of social media.
How does it feel to be followed by some of the biggest names in F1 and F1 social media and to achieve the following you did?
Charles Leclerc and Mika Hakkinen followed me way back in 2018, a year after I started this work. It was a thrilling time for me, knowing that I could connect with the real stars of the sport and that my work was reaching places.
This also had built a lot of hope for the future that the following years really couldn’t deliver, unfortunately. To have absolutely no feedback from the centre of the sport in the following 4 years since, in terms of what an artist can normally expect (a like or a share), led to a lot of frustration. Seeing that it wasn’t taking me anywhere, I’ve now disconnected from that desire to engage with the big names in the sport. So, apart from the isolated events in 2018, I don’t think anything remarkable has happened in that respect.
But that has opened a different metric for me: my followers. It’s really amazing how my followers appreciate and connect with my work. I never would have fathomed that I could capture the imagination of thousands of people who follow the sport, when I first began dabbling in such content.
What’s most heartening is to read some comments where people tell me how my content has helped make some of their days a bit better. That’s now my motivation to do more. Frankly, my followers have saved this series from the number of times that I’ve felt that I should stop.
Was there a specific moment when you realised just how big you've gotten in the F1 fan base and on social media?
That has been a mixed bag of realisations for me. When I hit my 10k follower mark on Instagram many years ago, I realised the magnitude of how big this has become and used to wonder what the impact of the work would be when it hit 100k followers. Now that I’m near 100k followers, I realise how small I am. Social media is a huge place and there are still a lot of F1 followers who are yet to notice my work.
But on the other hand, it still feels good when my posts get re-shared in chats and groups, and when followers quote my old posts when certain things happen in F1. So, personally, I don’t feel I’m anywhere near ‘big’ considering the sport as a whole, but the connection that I have with my followers is at a level that really amazes me. It’s like a fun little party that we all have in a little island in the sea that is F1.
Do you ever get hate on social media and, if yes, how do you deal with it?
Not much, thankfully. There are certain people who get triggered with posts that make fun of drivers they support and leave nasty comments, but those are mostly people who are not my followers, but people who happened to come across a certain post, and who wouldn’t know my style or appreciate where I’m coming from, which most of my followers do.
My followers completely understand the tone of my posts and they’ve never given me any hate, and as a comedian, I try to make fun of situations rather than individuals in the sense that the work would try to empathise with the driver who has found himself in the comical scenario that is being portrayed.
I always ask myself this question before I develop an idea - how would the person featured in the comic feel if they were to see it? (not that there is any likelihood of them seeing it!) - if it is demeaning or demoralising beyond what can be considered just humour, I wouldn’t proceed with that idea.
Do you feel any pressure to maintain your quality of humour and consistency as your followers count grows?
Absolutely. There’s pressure every race weekend and every session. And it’s been the same despite the follower count and despite so many years of doing it. The biggest pressure is in creating ideas for jokes that are workable as comics. To maintain the consistency of my style, I’ve mostly strayed away from using images or memes in my posts.
That really is a handicap for me if I’m to create a joke out of a weekend where nothing much happens on or off track. For example, it is relatively straightforward to use the photograph of a dejected looking personality captioned ‘McLaren fans right now’ after, say, a bad race for McLaren, and create a post that people will relate to and engage with. But I do not have that option while working on comics,
I need to find an idea that is workable into a few frames, has interesting dialogues, and is a proper joke with a proper ending. The pressure to find that idea during a race weekend is something that still persists. But I take this as an experiment to improve my joke writing skills and the proficiency required with the other aspects of the process.
What is the motivation behind doing what you do?
There were many occasions where I had taken breaks and asked myself if it was worth continuing my efforts, despite achieving a large number of the expectations that I’ve had about this work. And in those times, I was left with a void that I could not fill with anything else. My profession is so far fetched from what I’m doing here, that the desire within me to create content that combines the passion that I have towards comedy, motorsport, and art has no other outlet of expression.
And considering that I’ve so far managed to capture the imagination of a hundred thousand people following the sport and connect with them so well in our ‘little-island-in-the-sea party,’ I feel that it’s a no brainer when it comes to my own question of if I need to continue creating this content. It’s a combination of passions that I share with you all, and I’ll continue doing this as long as my lifestyle allows for it and this passion remains.