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Social Media in F1: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Written by Aimee Palmer, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri and Elisabeth Brown

The proliferation of technology has seen Formula One and other motorsports series benefit not only from the rapidly growing and changing world of engineering, but through the use of modern day social media. Used by many teams, fans, and drivers, it's safe to say social media is the one thing that connects us all. Social media has had a drastic impact over recent years, with an ever-growing rate of people using it as a source of escapism and entertainment. Fan pages have been created, increasing and growing new and old fan bases and bringing them together, as well as bringing long-lasting rivalries to the forefront of our news. Despite the amazing experiences and the enjoyment we get from these social media platforms, negativity has also grown through the years, with racism, sexism and homophobia making the headlines too.

Many drivers such as Daniel Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris have taken to the world of YouTube. Norris even has his own brand called “Quadrant.” Here, he has teamed up with a small group of friends, including former Formula 3 driver Max Fewtrell, to create gaming-related videos, and also some fun videos made for racing fans, involving Norris himself. This brand has helped grow Norris's popularity, and has provided him a place to interact with more fans. Additionally, it has led to the creation of a new source to show his fans the authentic him.

Image Credit: Charles Coates/Getty Images

Another McLaren driver making his way on YouTube is Daniel Ricciardo with his series of videos called “No Brakes.” More recently, he has released a video about fried chicken, obviously showing his comedic side, as well as his overall enthusiastic personality. With drivers expressing themselves on social media, fans get the insight they always want, but must also maintain boundaries regarding their private lives too. Fun videos such as these allow us to see the drivers outside of their work, and cause us to fall in love with their personalities even more.

Formula One drivers releasing content over summer break has to be the highlight for the sport’s fans. While missing the feeling and rush of a race weekend, social media has been everyone’s go-to, keeping us up-to-date with our favourite drivers. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc surprised his fans with a “day in the life” vlog featuring his friends and family. Watching this vlog, it’s safe to say Monaco really is a beautiful place to live. With all this content keeping us fans entertained, it also emphasises the craziness of these drivers’ schedules. Even more, it demonstrates how they appreciate the support of their fans and want to give them as much insight as possible into their lives, while still maintaining a semblance of privacy.

Instagram is an exciting and ever-growing place for Formula One fans, however, it has seen its fair share of drama too. The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was one such instance, which saw some fans abuse the power of their keyboard and spread hate across the platform. When the Formula One Instagram account shared the news that Max Verstappen would be extending his contract until the end of 2028 with Red Bull Racing, the comment section showed an array of negative comments, with users labelling him a “fake champion,” and some stating “let’s see how many more bent titles he can steal.” Apart from this, Verstappen has been called numerous names and has even more hate on other posts.

However, Lewis Hamilton, his championship rival last year, has also had a lot of abusive comments on his Instagram feed, with fans labelling him as a “cry baby” and a “drama queen.” He has also received a lot of racially motivated abuse and other hate comments throughout his social media platforms. Given both drivers have huge fan bases and the 2021 season ended in controversy, it’s no doubt that social media blew up. Despite this, social media is a powerful medium and comments like these undoubtedly affect the drivers negatively, as they are human too. Having to put up with comments such as these every day is no doubt damaging to their mental wellbeing. As fans, we need to do better. We have our own opinions, but targeting drivers personally is unacceptable. Fans need to have more consideration for what they write online.

The growing number of people using social media platforms is certainly helping the growth of Formula One stars. Drivers, teams and fans spread positive messages all the time through their platforms, with the likes of Lewis Hamilton often spreading awareness and positivity, as well as Pierre Gasly trending with his recent series of “Liked by Pierre Gasly” posts to try and make people happy. Drivers also share funny memes or posts on Twitter and, by often adding a cheeky comment, there is no way we will ever get bored. Fans love the use of social media to interact with their favourite stars and I have no doubt that the stars love it just as much. As fans of the sport, discussing our opinions of races, our thoughts on different circuits, or our predictions for upcoming rounds of the season, all help connect us in a unique and positive way. It has even led to meeting new people whom we don’t physically have around us each day, but are connected to simply by our love for this sport. We are so lucky that with the growth of social media, we are seeing people just as excited as ourselves about the one thing we all love, Formula One.

Image Credit: Dan Istitene/Formula One via Getty Images

Unfortunately, as much as everyone wants social media to be a positive and welcoming space for all, it takes just one comment to impact a person's mindset negatively.

With recent reports of racism and sexism around former W Series driver and current Sky Sports F1 presenter Naomi Schiff, it's clear that we as fans have a long way to go using these platforms. Fans questioned Schiff's qualifications for being able to analyse Formula One racing, despite her having an extensive background in the motorsport industry. Not only this, but Schiff is an ambassador for equality and diversity within motorsport, and is an inspiration to young girls and women wanting to find a space in this industry. Schiff shared a message on her Twitter account on June 14 shortly after the onslaught of abuse, stating a message which we all need to hear: “remember that your words do have impact…be kind to one another.”

Social media will always have a positive and negative impact in Formula One, due to the ever-growing fan bases it is creating. However, as fans, we need to be better. Social media should be a place to chat and enjoy each other's friendly rivalries, and share the love of racing amongst us. Tearing down people for supporting different teams and drivers should never happen, and the need of the hour is to create a happy, friendly and welcoming environment, and remember that words can hurt. We don't know the impact they could have on a person's mental health. Hopefully, we can see more videos and content on social media from our much-loved drivers and teams, and remember to be kind to one another.


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