Lando Norris thinks his image as a Formula 1 fun guy counted against him when he was accused of disrespecting Sir Lewis Hamilton.
The McLaren driver was the subject of a social media backlash after the Portuguese Grand Prix when he said Hamilton “has to beat one or two other drivers, that’s it” and that the World Champion breaking the record of F1 race victories “doesn’t mean anything to me, really – he’s in a car which should win every race, basically”.
Norris quickly apologised for those comments, and other remarks about Lance Stroll, saying he had been “stupid and careless” and had not “shown the respect I should have to certain people”.
He added he was “not that kind of person” and also sent a direct message of apology to Hamilton.
But the 21-year-old feels the public reaction was worse because he has built up a jocular profile since entering F1, thus his comments were perceived as being out of character and consequently more shocking.
I owe an apology. I’ve been stupid and careless with some things I’ve said lately in media and interviews, and haven’t shown the respect I should have to certain people. I’m not that kind of person, so know I should apologise to them but also everyone reading/listening. Sorry
— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) October 27, 2020
Asked if he thought another driver, such as Kimi Raikkonen, would have been lauded for making similar comments, Norris told Autosport: “Yes, I think if Kimi had said it, people would have loved it.
“There’s nothing you can do about that, that’s just how people portray you. I guess I’ve come in and been the jokey guy and perhaps not as serious as I should have been, and I feel like I’ve done a better job with that.
“But I guess people have just never seen the bad side of me, or the angry side of me, and then when I have shown that, people just think I’m acting out in a bad way and disrespecting everyone, which I’m not.
“You have other drivers who say these kind of things a lot of the time and just because they have always said it, people just find that normal and then that’s just the way it is.
“A bit of the reason is I’ve generally been seen as a bit of a nice guy and so on, and then I say something a bit more aggressive or offensive in some ways and people just see that as a contrasted side of myself.
“That’s just the way it is. It’s not something I can just change, it’s just people’s perceptions of different people.”