An Italian Formula 1 fan Imma Aurino didn’t have much to do when pandemic lockdowns began two years ago. She shared her experience saying that she was stuck at home, like much of the rest of the world, waiting out an unknown threat that has yet to vanish two years and five million global deaths later.
Turning on her computer to watch McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris stream his video games got Aurino through early-lockdown boredom.
Norris, who turned 22 in November, began his career as a streamer before becoming a fan favorite in Formula One. He began streaming in 2015 or 2016 “just for fun,” while Formula One was on hiatus due to the pandemic, and drivers like George Russell, Alex Albon, and Charles Leclerc joined him.
Norris is no longer just a streamer. He’s built a streaming empire by broadcasting for 1.1 million Twitch followers and creating his own gaming and lifestyle brand.
Even with thousands of viewers, Norris’ gaming stream is a cozy gathering, as are many others. Norris is seated in a gaming chair, wearing a headset and, on occasion, a backward hat or a knit beanie with a pompom on top. A live view of what he’s playing—be it a combat game like Battlegrounds or a motorsport simulator like iRacing—takes up the rest of the screen, while a camera feed captures his words and reactions.
Norris bounces his attention between the game and the messages that pop up in his live chat at breakneck speed, the glow of the computer lighting his face.
Many people were simply grateful to have something to do during the pandemic, whether it was watching Norris or making friends in his chatrooms, even if the games were boring.
He is truly bringing people closer together than has long been inaccessible: his world, which is no longer insulated from the rest of the world by the velvet ropes of Formula One. Fans, however, told Road & Track that it can make people feel too close.
It’s a classic parasocial relationship, in which one party has a personal bond with the other despite the fact that the other is completely unaware of their existence. If taken too far, this can become unhealthy, and Norris says he avoids this by streaming whenever and wherever he wants.