Lando Norris ‘becoming the big star of F1’, says Veloce Esports co-founder Jean-Eric Vergne

McLaren ace Lando Norris is quickly becoming one of the biggest stars of the Formula One field, according to two-time Formula E champion and Veloce Esports co-founder, Jean-Eric Vergne.

Norris was already a big fan favourite, his bold driving style and outgoing personality now familiar to all followers of the sport thanks to F1’s excellent television coverage, in addition to shows such as NETFLIX’s ‘Drive to Survive’ giving a more accessible insight into the lives of today’s drivers.

And, with no live racing for drivers to compete in or fans to watch, new Esports initiatives have come into their own in giving competitors and fans alike a real escape from the problems affecting the world. It’s an area in which Norris has excelled, giving the Esports professionals a run for their money and winning the latest round of Veloce Esports’s #NotTheGP series.

“I think Lando is the driver who has taken to Esports the best out of all the F1 drivers on the grid and in some ways this is making him the big star of Formula One at the moment, because everybody is talking about him, not about Hamilton, not about Vettel but about him,” Vergne told Motorsport Technology. “So Esports, in this way, is good because it’s important for his sponsors, it’s important for his team, McLaren.”

More than ever, young fans are engaging with all sports in a way scarcely thought possible over a decade ago, gaming technology evolving at such a rapid rate that now it’s a sporting industry in its own right. For Vergne, such a scenario was unthinkable during his day as an F1 driver for Scuderia Toro Rosso.

“It’s important to have drivers like this, and I think he’s doing a fantastic job. He’s young, it’s his generation. I’m absolutely not in his generation, because I’ve never had a simulator, but I fully understand it, and it’s nice to see all the fans being involved.

“When you go on his Twitch channel interacting very well with the fans, this is actually the only time when people can see the face of the racing driver when he’s focused, or the face he makes when he makes a mistake! It is quite sensational to be able to see that, because at the end of the day, when you race a simulator or you race for real, you have the same adrenaline, you have the same level of concentration and this is great to see. Let’s wait until he gets a car where he can win in Formula One and then the stress may go up a notch!”

As for Vergne himself, he will not be joining the ranks of his fellow Formula E counterparts or Formula One drivers in the virtual world any time soon. It’s not because he doesn’t want to, but purely because the current situation makes it impossible for the Frenchman to become immersed in the driving side of his venture.

“Honestly, I would love to, but I am in confinement and I only have 4G! If I had Wi-Fi, I probably would have ordered a rig to have a nice set-up and to be able to compete and race with the other guys. But the situation I am currently in makes it impossible for me. I’m just happy to be behind the team and organising all these things and it’s going really well at the moment.

“Definitely this coronavirus is going to be a massive push for the Esports industry, to take at least some positives out of this bad time.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.