Formula 1 driver Nicholas Latifi was so affected by online abuse and death threats after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that he hired bodyguards for his sightseeing trip to London with his girlfriend.
The 26-year-old Canadian was threatened after the season-ending race, where he crashed his Williams car into a wall just laps from the end. It led to a safety car, and late drama ensued when Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to claim the world title in one of the most controversial moments in F1 history.
“I was back in London after the race and had safety with me when I went to Winter Wonderland with my girlfriend,” he said Tuesday after Williams’ 2022 unveiling at Silverstone. “You have to take threats seriously because you don’t know what might happen and it’s just an unfortunate reality of the world we live in, and there have been extreme death threats that have overstepped the mark.” As outrage grew among some observers at how Hamilton missed out on a record eighth title, Latifi was unfairly caught in the crosshairs and took the threats very seriously after the December race.
“It sounds silly to some people, but at the end of the day, you don’t know how serious people are,” Latifi said. “All it takes is a drunken fan in an airport, or you run into somebody having a bad day and they’re inebriated under the influence of something, and they have these really extreme views.” Latifi planned to receive online abuse after Abu Dhabi so, at the time, he deleted Instagram and Twitter from his phone.
“I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to handle this. Do I just ignore it and move on? Or do I address it and tackle the bigger problem that unfortunately is a reality when you use the media social media?” he said in a statement at the time. “Using social media as a channel to attack someone with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is shocking – and something which I call.” The 23-race season begins on March 20 at the Bahrain GP.
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