HomeSportsFormula 1Nicholas Latifi reveals death threats after role in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix...

Nicholas Latifi reveals death threats after role in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale

Nicholas Latifi has revealed he received death threats on social media following his crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that inadvertently led to Max Verstappen beating Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One title on the last lap of the season.

The Williams driver lost control of his car and hit the wall at the Yas Marina Circuit, triggering a safety car with five laps of the race remaining.

Hamilton was on course to win a record-breaking eighth F1 championship but Latifi’s crash changed the course of history, allowing Verstappen to switch onto a fresh set of soft tyres and catch up with Hamilton before overtaking him in the dramatic last-lap shootout.

Latifi later apologised for the innocuous crash, which the Canadian said was caused by dirt on his tyres, as well as the role he played in influencing the outcome of the championship battle.

But in a further post on social media on Tuesday, released more than a week after the end of the F1 season, Latifi revealed the extent of the “hate, abuse and death threats” he was sent online in the aftermath of the race. The 26-year-old also said some of “those closest” to him had received abuse as well.

“Going back to the race weekend, as soon as the chequered flag dropped, I knew how things were likely to play out on social media,” Latifi wrote. “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.

“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, who has completed two seasons in F1 with British team Williams and was running close to the back of the field at the time of his crash, defended how he approached the closing stages of the race and said that although he was fortunate to have a “thick skin”, some of the comments he received had “crossed a line”.

“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,” he said. “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.

Nicholas Latifi will race again for Williams in 2022

(Getty Images)

“Thankfully, I’m comfortable enough in my own skin, and I’ve been in this world long enough that I can do a pretty good job of just letting any negativity wash over me… Having a thick skin is a huge part of being an athlete, especially when you are constantly in a position to be scrutinized.

“But 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.”

Latifi added: “This isn’t some scripted statement, but rather me speaking my mind in the hope that this maybe sparks another conversation about online bullying and the drastic consequences it can have on people. Using social media as a channel to attack somebody with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is shocking – and something I am calling out.”

Verstappen’s title win and the result of the Abu Dhabi race was subject to a protest by Mercedes, who were furious with FIA director Michael Masi’s actions following to Latifi’s crash. Mercedes eventually dropped their appeal three days after Verstappen’s victory.

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