breaking news

BREAKING NEWS

today is Aug 12, 2022

Nicholas Latifi has spoken out against the abuse he received on social media, including death threats, over his role in the controversial restart which decided the outcome of the world championship.

The Williams driver crashed on lap 51 of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix nine days ago, triggering a Safety Car period which ultimately swung the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Following a hotly disputed decision by FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi to allow a portion of the field to rejoin the lead lap and arrange a hurried restart, the Red Bull driver passed his rival to win the race and the championship.

Latifi says he has received a torrent of abuse online since then, as have some of those close to him.

“I’ve purposely been staying away from social media to kind of let things settle down from the events of the last race,” he told his official website in a statement. While Latifi said the majority of messages he received have been supportive, “there’s been a lot of hate and abuse, too.”

“As soon as the chequered flag dropped, I knew how things were likely to play out on social media,” he admitted. “The fact that I felt it would be best if I deleted Instagram and Twitter on my phone for a few days says all we need to know about how cruel the online world can be.

“The ensuing hate, abuse, and threats on social media were not really a surprise to me as it’s just the stark reality of the world we live in right now. I’m no stranger to being talked about negatively online, I think every sports person who competes on the world stage knows they’re under extreme scrutiny and this comes with the territory sometimes.

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“But as we’ve seen time and time again, across all different sports, it only takes one incident at the wrong time to have things completely blown out of proportion and bring out the worst in people who are so-called ‘fans’ of the sport. What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.”

Latifi told those who targeted him for abuse they are “not true fans of the sport” and dismissed those who claimed he was fighting too hard for a position outside of the points when he crashed.

“Some people said I was racing for a position that didn’t matter with only a handful of laps remaining. But whether I am racing for wins, podiums, points or even last place, I will always give it my all until the chequered flag. I’m the same as every other driver on the grid in that regard.

“To the people who don’t understand or don’t agree with that, that’s fine with me. You can have your opinion. But to use those opinions to fuel hatred, abuse and threats of violence, not only to me, but to those closest to me as well, tells me these people are not true fans of the sport.”

The Williams driver, who completed his second season in the sport this year, said the criticism went far beyond what should be considered acceptable and needs to be challenged.

“Many of the comments I received last week crossed the line into something far more extreme. It concerns me how somebody else might react if this same level of abuse was ever directed at them. No one should let the activities of a vocal minority dictate who they are.

“Events in the last week have made me see how important it is to work together to stop this kind of thing happening and to support those on the receiving end. I realise I’m unlikely to convince those who acted in this way towards me to change their ways – and they may even try to use this message against me – but it’s right to call out this kind of behaviour and not stay silent.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

  • Latifi condemns “extreme” social media abuse and death threats over Abu Dhabi GP crash
  • Why Mercedes believe they would have won an appeal but still lost the title
  • Verstappen’s title-winning last-lap pass on Hamilton was “very painful” due to cramp
  • Wolff hopes Hamilton will continue in F1 after “pain” of title loss
  • Hamilton was “robbed” of championship win by F1 race director Masi – Wolff

Browse all 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix articles