The drama in sim racing was real this past weekend when former IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud purposefully wrecked out F1 up-and-comer Lando Norris in an iRacing IndyCar event. This action, along with the polarizing personality of Norris, set my Twitterverse ablaze with opinions. Before providing my own opinion on the matter, let’s lay out the facts.
The Simple Facts
Who are these people?
If you do not know who Lando Norris is, he is a 20-year-old Formula 1 driver. He is one of the most talented drivers on the planet, as can be exhibited by the fact that he is one of only twenty people who get to compete in the pinnacle of motorsport any given year. If you have an argument about whether or not F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, ask any race car driver what series they dreamed of racing as a child.
Lando Norris is also an avid sim racer and Twitch streamer. He is often praised for being in tune with what the younger generations like. Unfortunately, he too often gets strikes against him for his immaturity. Lando likes to have fun, goof around, and otherwise act silly. His personality means there are plenty of moments caught on video/stream of him acting foolish or trolling other players.
Simon Pagenaud, on the other hand, is 100% pro motorsports. He has reached the top of the heap of American open-wheel racing, IndyCar. Simon was the 2016 IndyCar champion and last year’s winner of the prestigious Indy 500. Unlike Lando, Simon is not a known avid sim racer. It does not mean he is new to the sport, just that I could not find anything outwardly promoting that he has been involved for a while.
Already, we have two immensely talented drivers with polar personalities. There is no way anything could go wrong.
The very beginning of this drama in sim racing started when Lando Norris was invited to participate in an IndyCar event in iRacing at the virtual version of Circuit of The Americas (COTA). This invite was not so surprising; Lando is known both as a professional driver and as an avid sim racer. He had already been invited to race several non-Formula 1 related sim events.
From the get-go, the banter was friendly but spirited. The IndyCar drivers doubted how well Lando could adapt to the new car and driving style. There was also a bit of “our sport is harder than yours” as a friendly barb. If this banter was not happening between the drivers, it was happening between the fans.
The exciting thing about this situation is that Lando knows COTA well. The US Grand Prix is held there every year. Also, while the IndyCar cars are significantly different from a Formula 1 car, they are still fast open-wheel race cars.
Lando won the event relatively easily.
So there we were with only eight laps to go in the seventy lap race. Around one of the four turns at Indianapolis come Lando Norris, Simon Pagenaud, and Graham Rahal. Racing all day had been tight, the pack staying much closer together in the virtual world than in real life. The three previously mentioned drivers are fighting for the lead. Lando Norris takes a deep dive inside line as they come three-wide through the corner. Spectacular move on the fresher tires.
Pagenaud, unfortunately, ended up in the wall and turned backward. Having to get to the pits for repairs, his involvement in the race seemed to be over. Five laps later, with Lando looking to finish 1-2-3 with his teammates, he encounters the slower moving Pagenaud. Pagenaud, not moving out of the way, was subject to a tap of the rear-end, causing both men’s race to be over.
Most, at first, felt like the entire incident was a lack of awareness on Pagenaud’s behalf. That is, until people heard him say the following to his engineer over team radio:
“We take out Lando, let’s do it.”
The Aftermath and My Opinion
The initial aftermath of this incident was most people assuming nothing malicious took place. Lando did not feel that way, nor did some fans who had seen or heard the radio call. Immediately, people fell into one of three camps. You were either an F1 fan, an IndyCar fan, or you felt like the whole thing is just a game and no one should take it seriously. Instant sim racing drama, kids.
I, for one, think it is pretty petty to take out another driver, even in a sim game, just because they rub you the wrong way. I have heard the argument that the move he made going three-wide through the turn was “dirty”. In another vein, I have also heard that Lando has a grating personality and that “he deserved it”.
My best friend sent me a text he had with a friend about the incident. This text incorporated a bit of everything. The texts included attacking Lando’s personality, saying everything was just a game, and even that the move was dumb. It turns out this person has been in IndyCar for ten years.
The entire situation is forcing people to show their bias and pick a side. My favorite racing series, in order, are DTM, Super GT, GT World Championship (GT3/GT4), Formula 1, and IndyCar.
I want to think that as a motorsport fan who loves sim racing and prefers GT cars over open-wheel that my opinion as unbiased as you may get.
Lando had every right to the racing line he took. Sorry. Anyone so mad that they are getting beaten by someone from another discipline that they would crash them is an ass. The fact that this all happened in a simulation means it is all no big deal minus potential sponsorship loss, or “clout”.
I am happy we have something to watch and fight over in the motorsport world, but c’mon. We don’t need inter-disciplinary sim racing drama when now is the perfect time for the motorsport world to come together and crossover some fans.
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