Williams Formula 1 driver Nicholas Latifi has responded to the criticism he has received following his crash at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, an incident that ultimately proved pivotal in the fight for the 2021 Drivers’ Championship.
With under 10 laps to go, Latifi crashed into the wall after tussling with Haas’ Mick Schumacher and his accident facilitated the need for a Safety Car. Red Bull would make a shrewd call to pit title protagonist Max Verstappen with the Dutchman ultimately passing Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on the last lap with the benefit of fresher tyres, thus handing the Dutchman his first Formula 1 championship.
Since the incident, Latifi’s social media channels have been bombarded with hateful comments, with many accusing the Canadia of being bribed by the Austrian energy drink company. In an emotional post, Latifi has responded to the abuse he has had to endure and has stated the issue of online bullying needs to be addressed.
Latifi’s post has garnered the support of several members in the F1 community with the likes of George Russell and Lando Norris resharing Latifi’s words on their Instagram accounts and Hamilton himself liking the post.
Latifi’s social media post in full
“I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to go about handling this,” Latifi wrote.
“Do I ignore it and carry on? Or do I address it and tackle the bigger issue that is sadly a reality when you use social media?
“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.
“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.
“Reflecting on what happened during the race, there was really only one group of people I needed to apologise to for the DNF: my team. I did that right afterwards. Everything else that followed was out of my control.
“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.
“People will have their opinions, and that’s fine. Having a thick skin is a huge part of being an athlete, especially when you are constantly in a position to be scrutinised. 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.
“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.
“To all the fans and people that did have my back during this whole situation, I want to say a huge thank you. I’ve seen and read a lot of your messages and they are much appreciated. It’s nice to know I have so many people supporting me.
“Sport is by its very nature competitive, but it should bring people together, not drive them apart. If sharing my thoughts, and highlighting the need for action, helps just one person, then it was worth it.”