Norris explains decision to shelve “inappropriate” Belgian GP helmet design

2020 Belgian Grand Prix

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Lando Norris says he chose not to wear a special, one-off helmet he had produced for the Belgian Grand Prix weekend after learning it could be considered to have political connotations.

The McLaren driver, whose maternal grandparents are Belgian, was seen sporting a new helmet on Friday at Spa-Francorchamps. The design incorporated the flag of the Flemish region, a black lion on a yellow background.

Norris said he was unaware of any potential political concerns over the lion insignia, which has been adopted by a far-right party in Belgium. He intended to use the design as a tribute to his maternal grandparents, a picture of which also appeared on the helmet.

“I wanted a helmet design this weekend to pay tribute to my Belgian roots and my family, in particular my grandparents whose picture I put on the back,” Norris explained.

“I wasn’t aware of the connotations around the use of this particular motif when I designed the helmet but as soon as I was, it was clear that it was inappropriate to continue using it.”

When he was made aware of the concerns over the design, images of which circulated on social media, Norris immediately decided not to use it.

“The helmet was never intended to be a political statement, for me personally it was simply a cool design that paid tribute to part of my heritage,” he said.

“However, I never want to cause division or offence and I understand that using the helmet would have offended many people in Belgium. With that in mind, I’ve decided to go back to my standard helmet.”

Speaking on Thursday, Norris said he considered Belgium’s round of the world championship as a second home race due to his links to the country.

“I’m 50% from the UK, 50% from Belgium,” said Norris. “We used to come here all the time for Christmas and Easter and many occasions. Everyone from my mum’s side lives out here and has come to all of the races that I’ve done in Belgium since karting.

“So I see it completely as a home race. The only reason I would say Silverstone or the GB race is more of a home race is just because that’s where I’ve grown up.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on “Norris explains decision to shelve “inappropriate” Belgian GP helmet design”

  1. I hadn’t realized before that he has links of this great extent to Belgium, although he’s still British or English by birth and nationality, and doesn’t speak Dutch (or French) fluently AFAIA.

    1. Lance Stroll’s link to Belgium, on the other hand, I was aware about already back in 2017.

      1. When Lando Friday tested at Spa in 2018 we had four Belgian mothers at their ‘home’ F1 race: those of Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll, Stoffel Vandoorne and Lando.

        1. By the say, I think he speaks Dutch. At least he heard him Saying some words of Flemish on twitch and the accent was perfect.

          1. I suppose he can practice with either his mother(‘s family) or with Verstappen

          2. He doesn’t speak it. He just knows some words. And it’s Flemish, not Dutch. Mostly (99,99%) the same language but with a very different accent.

        2. In 2014 there was an other driver with a Belgian mother in Spa, André Lotterer.

          1. André Lotterer’s mother is Belgian!? I always thought she was Peruvian. No idea where I got that information.

          2. His father is German-Peruvian and his mother Belgian. And he grew up in Belgium… In fact he is more Belgian than anything else, but he chose to drive with a German license.

          3. @Hal, kinda like Verstappen who chose a Dutch license, but was born and grew up in Belgium and based his karting career there as well.

    2. No he has not, otherwise he would know better not to design that helmet. He may want to pay tribute to his mom’s side but mom apparently failed to explain to Lando the dicotomy of the country.

      1. Seeing how pretty much 75% of the country doesn’t know the difference in the 2 flags with lions, it’s not at all surprising that Norris doesn’t.

      2. Have a spoon of cement with your cereal tomorrow morning.

      3. In your blind rage at this unforgivable offence by his mother you spelt dichotomy wrong.

        1. I find misspelling of the word “dichotomy” very offensive. Pennyroyal tea should be banned.

  2. Welcome to the dark side of social media, my young apprentice Lando. It is much stronger, but you can be destroyed by it.

  3. Seriously? Almost every national or regional flag is adopted by rightwing nationalists..

    1. It’s the specific design that is the issue. Full black is symbol of Vlaams Belang, right wing party in BELGIUM.

      1. If I’m correct, the official flag of Flanders has a black lion with red tongue and red claws, while the version of the flag used by rightwing extremists, and as (unintentionally) used by Norris on this helmet, is full black.

        1. That is correct.

          1. This thread reminds me of House of Castamere song.

          2. If this is the case, surely he can just update the design to make the lion’s tongue and claws red, rather than shelving it altogether.

          3. Chances are he just doesn’t know. A lot of people in Belgium actually don’t know this. It is why a lot of youth got upset when flags of black lions on yellow backgrounds were removed from a festival and Vlaams Belang started to hand them out to kids at the enterance. It has been sensitive for quite some time now, but hardly anybody knows why.

      2. No it’s not. The full black lion has been around for centuries. The separatists only prefer it because the other version has only been introduced after Belgium was born. That doesn’t mean the full black lion is a separatist symbol, and certainly not a right wing symbol. The very suggestion is offensive.

        1. To illustrate my point, look up the flag of the Dutch province of Zeeuws Vlaanderen, historically a part of Flanders. It has an all-black lion on yellow.

        2. The old one (as shown by Norris) is still connected with a lot of dubious groups (collaboration in first and second world war) and seen as a “battle flag”. The new version is the official flag as of may 1972..and later 1985 for the whole of flanders.
          The old version is still used by those “dubious” groups..

        3. A swastika wasn’t a symbol of the nazi’s either, you don’t see people running around with those anymore now, do you? Symbols get used by (sometimes bad) groups of people so they get associated with it. It’s something that happens everyday.

  4. It’s a shame that totally innocent actions like this are taken in a very wrong way by a small minority, but full respect to Lando for having the presence of mind to deal with it in a sensible way.

    Goes to show that behind the child-at-heart, meme-Lord demeanour, there is a well-thought out character.

    1. Likely he was told not to wear it

      1. Wether he was or wasn’t is irrelevant. He has responded with a maturity which the vast majority of people would do well to recognise.

        1. Maybe. But the team wouldnt countenance the wearing of a symbol that brought their brand into disrepute. So not so much maturity as being obedient

          1. …that’s a conclusion that you have reached based entirely on facts that you made up in your previous post. We have no actual idea who first noticed this and brought it to Lando’s attention.

  5. Controversial politics have no place in F1

    1. christ I hope that was sarcasm!

      1. @ahxshades Christ has no place in F1 either

  6. I’m Flemish, and I personally don’t see why the design should be a problem given the context in which it’s being used. Norris’ intentions were apolitical. Surely that should be all that matters?

    1. I wonder whether the fact Spa is in the Walloon part of Belgium has something to do with it too “flemish imper- eh royalis – eh, wait King is French speaking mostly too, huh – well, something like that @maichael, though also as the article makes clear, who knows what’s around nowadays in darker (and reaching for the light!) corners of the internet. Probably best to hug his grandparents and just try again next time to avoid getting trouble, I suppose.

      1. Ironically, The Belgian Royal family are a bunch of Germans, like most Royal families in Europe are German.

  7. These days there is always someone offended

    1. I’m also ‘someone’ and don’t appreciate being spoken about like this.

    2. I am offended by your assumption I am easily offended.

    3. We pity the offended and get on with life mostly

    4. I find your remark offensive, you should be banned.

    5. These days there is always someone offended

      fwiw it’s nothing new. A few dozen km north we haave the Netherlands which dropped their earlier orange-white-blue flag in favour of red a pretty long time ago now, the nail in the coffin of which being not long before/after South Africa adopted an orange-white-blue design no less.

  8. National symbols and emblems are being adopted by far-right parties everywhere in the world. Norris should’ve rocked that beautiful helmet and make it clear that the helmet is apolitical and it’s just a salute to his Belgian roots and to his grandparents.

    1. I also believe Norris is overreacting. I don’t know much about the particular Flemish situation but it is a very common problem. If the black lion on yellow is a legitimate Flemish symbol, by all means use it if fou feel like it. Otherwise yo are contributing to its patrimonialization by far-right organizations, when it should be freely used by anyone who feels Flemish.

      1. It has to do with the particular version of the flag of Flanders that was used. The official version, as used by the Flemish government, has a black lion with a red tongue and red claws, while the design used by right wing extremists and (unaware of its connotations) by Norris on his helmet is full black.

        1. I loathe that political party. I still prefer the all black flag, simply because it is older/more authentic and looks better.

      2. I feel the same about the swastika, but that doesn’t mean I would freely use a swastika motif in designs. One also has to have a certain amount of pragmatism when it comes to these things.

  9. “Extremists”
    Most of the political points of the political party used to be left wing rhetoric of socialist and labour parties in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

    The flag in question is “de Vlaamse strijdvlag”, or battle flag version of the Flemish province.

    Which hasn’t been in use officially since 1944.

    It has been adopted by Vlaams Belang, one of the major political parties in Flanders, that support separation from Wallonia ( the French Speaking part).

    The flag is less controversial than waving the US confederate flag, and is definitely not a Belgian equivalent of a nazi flag.

    But yeah, if he would have dotted the claws and tongue in red, there wouldn’t have been any controversy at all.

    That’s how minute it is….

  10. So i Right wing party hijacked the Lion Design…. Many years ago a Certain German Leader Hijacked a Mustache design and ruined that design for everyone in the world forever…. 😅

  11. we need a word for when the wokeness begins to consume the woke. “karma” is not sufficient

  12. I thought he didn’t look English… He just doesn’t have that bloke-y look to him.

  13. I’m sorry for Lando. That was a beautiful design with the picture of his grandparents on it.
    Our stupid Belgian politics ruined this for him.
    He’s not to blame. He doesn’t live here.

    This would have been picked up by Belgian media and they would have played him.
    The political party who uses this flag would have taken advantage of it.
    The political parties that oppose this would have taken advantage of it.

    Nothing much he could do.
    Hope he sends it to his oma and opa, so at least they can enjoy it.

  14. Lol is there anything the alt right havent stollen from

  15. Nice words from Lando. He had good intentions and when he saw that the way he wanted to show his good intentions was wrong he own the error and stepped back as a grown up adult.
    Thumbs up for Lando

  16. Not showing something because it might associate with some folk only makes their claim of it more justified. Use it despite idiots using it, one of the way of taking their connotations out of it is using it. They don’t own, they use.

  17. Som insights from an actual Flemish separatist.

    Throughout our rich and illustrious history both versions of the flag can be found on paintings and drawings. In earlier years books typically portray our coat of arms as entirely black. In the 14th century however when heraldry became more and more standardized and explained in greater details. Examples from that time start showing red claws and tongue.

    Not that it mattered much because for much of our history we were ruled by others and have never really enjoyed a sort of independence. Napoleon nabbed Wallonia and Flanders from the Austrians and after the war we were merged with the new Kingdom of the Netherlands to create a large buffer state between the great nations of Europe as to avoid a new war (sounds familiar? WW1? WW2?). Nobody in these regions was asked what they thought of this solutions. The old nations of europe decided this over our heads.

    Flanders was a dutch speaking region and Wallonia French. Much of the bourgeoisie in both regions spoke french however as it was seen as the superior language (this was in part due to some of Napoleon’s policies when we were under his rule). Dutch and it’s local Flemish dialects was seen as something a peasant spoke, unworthy. The Dutch imposed new language laws to combat the Frenchification, there was religious conflict as the ‘Southern Netherlands’ was largely catholic while the Dutch were protestant.

    Fair to say it caused a lot of troubles and by 1830 we had a revolution and the Dutch were kicked out and independence declared. In order to maintain the peace the nations decided to recognize this new country and some even guaranteed our neutrality. To make this as typically European as possible the new government asked a German prince to come and sit on this new fantasy throne.

    As the industrial revolution kicked into full effect many Flemish peasants flocked to the cities for work where they worked largely for the bourgeoisie who spoke french. As the populous grew more literate, many Flemish people started to feel that their language and culture was not being respected. Everything was in French. The Administration, Justice System, and higher education (apart from elementary schools in Flanders) all functioned in the French language. The government even made French the only official language of Belgium.

    You can imagine how this mad the Flemish feel as they actually make up the bulk of the population. The flemish movement was born to combat this Frenchification. As struggle which is still active as of today. We had to wait until 1967 before our national constitution was publicized in our own language! Tha’s more than 130 years after it was first written. Imagine living in your own country where you cannot read the constitution.

    The symbol of this movement has historically been the black flag. The main reason it has become so politicized is WW2. Back then a large portion of the separatists supported the Nazis in the hope Hitler might grant us our independence. It probably never even crossed his mind. After the war the separatist movement continued to use the black flag and french speakers have never been able to disconnect the flag from the collaboration. The fact that the movement sort of split up into centre-right factions and extreme-right wing factions probably didn’t help. In the seventies politicians officially made the red flag the ‘official’ one and separatists have continued to use the black one as a protest against this as they see it as a Belgian symbol (Belgian flag is black, yellow and red).

    As a centre-right voter myself I fly the black flag at my house. I reject the notion that it is an extreme-right wing symbol simply because they use it. It’s the flag of our people, not theirs and if the starts align one day, it shall be the flag of a truly independent Flemish Republic.

    1. Flanders will never be independent. As much as everyone hates it, the Wallon and Flemish need each other.
      Just imagine the discussion to whom Brussels belongs, when Flanders wants independence.

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