Williams Formula 1 driver Nicholas Latifi has revealed he employed security protection staff following the death threats he received in the aftermath of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Latifi released a statement nine days after the final race of the 2021 season calling out the abuse he had received on social media “in the hope that this maybe sparks another conversation about online bullying and the drastic consequences it can have on people”.
The Canadian driver was inadvertently thrust into the stunning conclusion of the 2021 title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen when he crashed with six laps of the race at the Yas Marina track remaining and triggering the safety car – albeit only after race director Michael Masi subsequently allowed only the cars between the title contenders to unlap themselves.
Speaking after driving Williams’ 2022 F1 challenger in shakedown at Silverstone on Tuesday, Latifi explained that his statement was “an important opportunity to use my platform to spread the important message” of “being kind”.
When asked how seriously he and his team had taken the death threats and if he had taken measures to protect himself with security staff, he replied: “Yeah, to be honest, it was something we considered.
“It sounds silly to some people, but again at the end of the day you don’t know how serious people are.
“All it could take is one drunk fan at an airport, or you bump into someone that’s having a bad day – intoxicated or under the influence of something – and has these really extreme opinions.
“All it takes is that one in a million person.
“So, [after] some days I was back in London after the race, and I did have some security with me when I was doing certain things.
“I went to Winter Wonderland with my girlfriend – because we didn’t manage to fit that in before the last block of races – and I had some security detail with me on that.
“So yeah, it sounds funny, it sounds silly, but we definitely did take the threats seriously because you really don’t know what could happen.
“It’s just an unfortunate part of the world we live in.”
Latifi also revealed that that Hamilton “did send me a message a few days after [Abu Dhabi]”.
Although he did not go into details of their exchange, he indicated that it sat alongside the “messages of support [I received] from other team members at Mercedes as well”.
He added: “Obviously the whole outcry of support on social media – from multiple drivers and teams across so many different disciplines – was really nice and encouraging to see.
“Obviously everyone agreed with the whole sentiment and message.
“This has not been the only instance of a situation like this with online abuse.
“Even going outside of motorsport – the next most recent one was probably the Euros with the three English players [Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka] missing the penalties and all the fallback they got after that.
“It’s an issue unfortunately we have in the world we have with social media. Social media brings a lot of good, gives people a lot of access to things that they wouldn’t normally be able to engage with.
“But at the same time these negative pitfalls can happen. It would just be nice to find more ways to do better on that front.”