Written by Nakul Naik, Edited by Hafiz Akbar
Formula One is one of the biggest sports on the planet with hundreds of millions of viewers tuning in to watch every race. While the sport is wholly a team sport, the spotlight often falls on the drivers. When a sport has such a big fan base, it is only expected that there will be differences of opinions.
Every action, every word, and every lap time of the drivers is analyzed through a fine-tooth comb, and anything that is out of order is seen as a gross violation of conventional opinion. That’s where the problem lies. The fact that you might have a different opinion regarding a particular matter is intolerable within this community.
One of the major issues which leads to this intolerance is driver obsession. Supporting a driver is one of the best ways to be immersed in the sport. Nothing beats the joy of seeing your favourite driver get a good result. But, there is a well-defined line between support and obsession. Obsession makes you see your favourite driver through rose-coloured glasses.
Their wrongs start becoming right, and any criticism against them is seen as a direct attack upon yourself. You start defending them everywhere—comments, replies, tweets, posts, and anywhere where your opinion is projected to a broader audience. You’re willing to create entire twitter threads and type several paragraphs to make your point. When you’re obsessed, you’ll always be in the mindset that you’re right, and everyone else is wrong.
Nicholas Latifi’s plight in the fallout of the events of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix serves as the prime example of driver obsession gone too far.
“All it needs is one drunk fan at an airport, or you bump into someone who is having a bad day and they are intoxicated under the influence of something and they have these really extreme opinions. It takes just that one-in-a-million person,” said Latifi following the death threats he got on social media.
At this point, hating a driver and being obsessed with one are just two sides of the same coin. Both involve having equally radical opinions and neither involves the essence of being a fan: enjoying the sport for what it is.
One of the major consequences of being a Formula One driver is having to lead a highly publicized life where every move of yours is documented on social media, with little to no privacy in your everyday life.
A very good example of this is when Lando Norris posted a photo of him and his girlfriend on Instagram. He immediately went trending on Twitter, with some of his so-called ‘fans’ having a more-than-extreme reaction to the post with some going so far as to post their distraught on social media, and openly bash his girlfriend as “someone who’s in it for the money.”
I know that there is nothing anyone can do to make the F1 fan base less toxic than it already is. The growth of social media and Formula One is only going to compound this problem.
Formula One is never straightforward and we, as Formula One fans, should learn to enjoy it.
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