Norris on Pagenaud beef: Selfish to treat esports as just a game

Norris speechless after Pagenaud esports crash (1:51)

McLaren's Lando Norris reveals how he felt after Simon Pagenaud's 'selfish' intentional virtual IndyCar crash. (1:51)

Lando Norris says the events of this past weekend's IndyCar esports event, when reigning Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud conspired to knock him out of the race, were unacceptable given how much online racing has grown in stature this year.

Norris was at the centre of a social media storm on Saturday after Pagenaud intentionally slowed to knock him out of a simulated race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. McLaren's team was denied a win at the race when Norris' teammate Oliver Askew was driven into the wall as he closed in on victory by former Haas test driver Santino Ferrucci.

Norris is frustrated that people still treat esports with contempt given how much it has grown this year in the absence of sport during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on the latest edition of the ESPN F1 Podcast, Norris said: "The big conversation is 'yes, it's a game' and so on, so you shouldn't care about it, but at the same point esports over the last few months has really got to a point where it's become more serious.

"I know it's virtually and people class it as a game -- it's become quite a bit more than that over the last few weeks. Not only because it's on TV but personally for different drivers and teams and sponsors, there's companies and teams and so on which still need this advertising, TV in America with thousands and thousands of people watching it, it's more than a game now.

"You'd still expect people to act professionally. People who have been racing for years and have that experience... although it's virtual, and which is what everyone uses as an excuse, it was still taken seriously by everyone else [in the race]."

He added: "There's still a lot riding on it, so for someone to be so selfish and just to not care about other people was disappointing at that time, and to see from such a driver. I guess you just have to kind of move on. In some ways we're lucky it wasn't real. There could have been real consequences.

"In a few weeks, maybe esports will get to a level where there are consequences. You can't take people too seriously when they're in a world where they are vulnerable of getting beaten."

In his first appearance on the show, Norris talks about training in lockdown and which other games are taking up his spare time. You can listen to the whole thing at various podcast outlets listed here.