Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Yas Marina, 2021

Latifi condemns “extreme” social media abuse and death threats over Abu Dhabi GP crash

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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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

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “Latifi condemns “extreme” social media abuse and death threats over Abu Dhabi GP crash”

  1. How about that, Timo Glock?

    1. I never felt Glock should have gotten the abuse he took, as he just took a strategy gamble and it didn’t workout. All that said, F1 will be much improved when all the pay drivers are gone….

      1. That is absolutely beside the point. Some drivers are good, others bad, that’s an okay debate to have, but the context of this discussion here is on online abuse and death threats. That is not permissible in ANY circumstance, and discussing a driver’s capabilities in these discussions is, at best, distracting from what is important.

      2. Glock took a strategy gamble, and it did work out ! He was 7th before the rain started and finished 6th.

        1. Niranjan Mavath
          22nd December 2021, 11:47

          Neither Glock nor Latifi deserved any abuse. Latifi did what he was supposed to do by apologising to his team for wrecking the car. He’s under no obligation whatsoever to apologise to anyone else.

  2. I wrote this comment after Lewis Hamilton received racist abuse for the Silverstone crash:

    ‘I feel as though over the last few years, a new wave of Formula 1 fans seem to be sweeping into the sport, who didn’t seem to exist before. These are the social media fans, who write absolute garbage on the internet and really give the sport a bad image. I have read countless comments on different sites from people who worship Hamilton or Verstappen, trolls, or just idiots who know nothing about F1 giving their extreme views on the accident, including much racism and other abuse. This saddens me, as I am sure Formula 1 fans used to be more civilised. My friend said recently (after the Euros) that if Thanos clicked his fingers and the only people remaining were the football fans, the human race would de-evolve to the point that the apes would start to kick us out of our houses. At the time, I felt pleased that Formula 1 fans were better than this, but the incidents of this weekend has made me feel that this is no longer the case (however, these are of course not real fans of the sport – in both F1 and football), and I blame this entirely on the anonymity of social media bringing out the worst in so many people.’

    Sadly it’s relevant again. Reading it back, it’s probable that the social media fans are not new fans at all, just that they weren’t able to commit this kind of disgusting behaviour before social media.

    1. @f1frog It shouldn’t be part of our daily living but it has come to this and I doubt it will be better in the future. At least F1 fans won’t throw pig heads, glass bottles, coins or point lasers. I’m not gonna guess why it is like that but if something like that will happen I think F1 could red flag the race but there is always the possibility that they will continue racing. Football hooligans have been a consept since decades. Maybe it has something to do with that “upper class sport” that we haven’t seen anything bigger than some stupid guys running in middle of the track holding some signs. Still the main problem today is the internet and that its open to almost everyone. Maybe if newspapers would headline all those abusive and horrific messages it might help a bit but as long as internet is “open” there will be these guys shouting anonymously.

    2. I think a lot of them are the kids that FOM have been so hell-bent on courting over the last decade. Not all, but a lot.

    3. Social media is a huge part of the problem, not just in F1 but in the wider world, but it isn’t all of the problem.
      Sensationalist media plays a big role too, any driver says anything and the headline is “XXXX slams YYYY” or something.
      It just feeds hate, even when the actual thing said is quite reasonable, too many don’t read past the headline before forming their opinion and commenting.
      Now you can’t just watch F1, now you must be a fan of one of the drivers and teams, now you have to pick a side on everything, even between the race officials, and if you appeal to calm and stay in the center all fan camps will hate you, it’s just pushing the normal people out, leaving only the psychos.

  3. My only wish is that we get to see more of you, on pre race tv, and also on track. Considering your position, you did well. Chin-up.

  4. Will the MSM report this like they did the Silverstone abuse? Two tier system so far.

    1. This!

      The mainstream media is pathetic.

  5. Kinda shocking that he had to address the levels of abuse he’s been getting and yeah, it’s obviously not from Red Bull/Verstappen ‘fans’ is it? And in reality they’re not fans at all – if they were they’d know neither Hamilton or Mercedes would want that kind of thing said or done in their name.

    The state of it on social media is extreme. I’ve seen a lot of exceptionally toxic abuse thrown at Red Bull, Verstappen, Perez, even Albon and now Latifi over this and it’s got to be said the media has been happy to fan those flames. It’s an unpleasant situation and really has made being a fan of F1 pretty hard lately – joining discussions has been simply not worth the grief.

    1. I’ve read many things on this site, sometimes saddened by the negative attitudes, but this prompted me to actually comment.
      As a Hamilton fan from his pre-F1 days, I think this shows how many non-fans there are lurking in the social media dark corners.
      In no way is anything that happened at Abu Dhabi the fault of Nicholas Latifi, apart from the destruction of a decent bit of motor machinery.

      I’m sad that the events of the race end tarnished the result. Without Masi interfering it might have played out the same way, or it might have been an 8th championship for Hamilton.
      As a fan, I’m saddened by what Masi did, he stole my enjoyment along with that of many others.

      As a fan, I’m livid about the reptiles (perhaps I malign reptiles) that are throwing abuse at Latifi.

      1. This is not about Masi. Its about idiots all over the world unfortunately, that can say these disgusting things anonymously. Its not only in sports its everywhere. And they are doing it because they can. Things have to change on SM. There is no respect sadly.

  6. While I believe most people are really quite decent, a small minority of people are absolutely horrible and I sometimes wonder why any celebrity would bother with social media, if this is the sort of thing they endure.

    Nobody deserves to be treated like that, under any circumstances.

    1. Well said!

      1. @f1frog Thank you. It is absolutely disgusting. If someone end up throwing abuse at someone else, either online or in real life, then they seriously need to question their life choices. Sadly, the people that do send abuse, just don’t care.

        Good on Latifi for calling this behaviour out.

  7. Not surprised, unfortunately. And not surprised either that most comments here are attempting to whatabout the blame onto “others”. Exactly the type of divisive nonsense that creates an environment that the worst type of people thrive on.

  8. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    21st December 2021, 16:03

    Toto Wolff is also to blame, his behavior and extreme angry reaction both physical and verbally further fueled certain ….. (have no name for them, certainly not fans) in their reaction/responses including lashing out to a completely innocent and blameless Latifi.

    Still believe the FIA should reprimand Toto for his out of line reactions/remarks and probably order him to follow anger management training as Toto just sets a really bad example of how team principals should behalf, even if things are not going their way.
    Maybe sent Horner as well, although he seems to be in slightly better control of his anger, but still would be interesting to have those 2 in an anger management training with secret videos surfacing 4-5 months later.

    1. @jelle-van-der-meer
      To be fair, Lewis and specially Toto have some responsibility on that for their anger and borderline conspirational reaction, but they can’t control the fans anyway. Now we’re seeing why it was unfair to blame Max for “allowing” some his fans shouting a boo against Lewis freely. Not that simple.
      Even Horner has said something that might not have improved the situation, jokingly saying that Latifi won a lifetime supply of Red Bull for his “help”. But you know, hard to say it really contributed to a “haters gonna hate” unfortunate scenario. Social bubbles is probably much more to blame for fueling hate against the other side, generally speaking, than what some individual said or failed to say, even if the person in question is someone important.

    2. our dear Toto basher, using every opportunity. they got cheated, and the reaction is totally understandable. it way another team who got out of control after silverstone

    3. If Toto needs to be banned for what he has been saying, then Red Bull should quickly find a replacement for both Horner and Marko, since they have said far worse. And throw Jos Verstappen out of the paddock and put a restraining order on him to keep him from talking BS in De Telegraaf as well @jelle-van-der-meer.

    4. And here we go. Mercedes/Red Bull clash, forget about death threats someone received; which is the actual topic (and I believe a more serious matter than spoiled self-centered fans talking about whose daddy is taller). You need to get your priorities straight in life. I dislike Latifi and all pay drivers stand for by simply existing in F1, but damn, his well-being is more important to me than who’s the champion and who got “robbed” by Massi. After all, you all talk about his last decision if it suits you, or ignore it if it doesn’t; but only rare people at least try to be objective and see a broader picture. Fans and “fanboys” are definitely the people not to try to have a conversation with, in order to preserve some sanity, if that’s even possible in 2020s.

  9. Nice to see Latifi speak out against this. Will Buxton was also pretty quick onto it last week as well iirc. Absolutely disgusting what this guy has gone through. Sure, he may not be the next World Champion, but to be abused this way on social media, for making a mistake, is absolutely abhorrent.

    And to get to the point where it’s not a surprise and is instead expected is equally horrible. Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford (England footballers) said a similar thing after they missed their penalties in the Euro final loss against Italy: they knew the moment they lost the game that they would get social media abuse. It’s vile.

    And I agree with @ciaran above, I don’t think people should be apportioning blame onto fans of driver’s they don’t like. 99% of fans are absolutely fine, I have friends on both sides of the divide who are lovely, but there’s a small minority in every fanbase that just takes things beyond the extreme.

    Anyways, it’s nice to see Latifi addressing this, and hope he and the rest of the community can really spark some change from this.

  10. Nicholas, as you quite rightly pointed out, the internet/Social Media these days allows every human being, regardless of IQ or knowledge, to post an opinion.
    It is the most moronic and abusive that we tend to notice and recall.

    I have enjoyed seeing you progress and grow as an F1 driver. Thank you.

  11. Crashes happen. All of the drivers are racing for something each race which is why Masi’s ruling was inherently unfair to the field. I am going to assume the hate for Latifi is coming from degenerate gamblers that lost money on the outcome.

    1. @jimfromus

      Good point about the losing gamblers.

      I think you hit the nail on the head there.

  12. Only Michael Masi/FIA deserved criticism in the first place, although death threats are always unacceptable.
    Latifi received unfair & undeserved criticism, given he isn’t the one who ultimately cost a record-breaking WDC #8 even if he caused the SC neutralization.

  13. I just want to vent my dissapointment. Articles with much less substance can have comments in the hundreds, but somebody who’s receiving death threats from lunatic fans, just a lousy 18, which is really sickening.

    And yeah, most of those threats are probably from keyboard warriors in their basement, or trolls which don’t have anything better to do. But yeah, screw them.

  14. Wise words

  15. I can’t deny I thought “it’s a shame that the championship is decided by Latifi crashing out”, like he’s not worthy of an F1 seat let alone of having that kind of influence, but that doesn’t justify actually abusing the guy and sending him death threats. Some people really need to go outside and touch some grass, because this is just a sport. You’ll be better spending all of that agression elsewhere, there are a lot of problems in this world to be angry about.

  16. Scum. The type of ‘people’ that viciously attack any driver, team member, team principal, or even fans, with vitriol and hatred are total scum.

    Death threats are a cowards impotent attempt at being relevant. These people are all mouth no brain, they run from shadows in real life and let be in fear that they can’t cope with simple emotions.

  17. There needs to be stricter online controls and individuals need to be given a digital fingerprint for everything they say and do online, at least in the public domain. Those who wish to be anonymous should have to resort to decentralised technology.

    At the end of the day the internet is just a form of communication and while I can’t legally tell strangers on the street I want to kill them, let alone famous people, I shouldn’t be able to tell them that online either.

    1. Well said @skipgamer. Something as needing an ID confirmation if you want to buy online. And I’m sure FB / IG could easily implement it, but they would risk losing lots of people who use the internet as a coward way to say things they wouldn’t dare to say in real life.

  18. Its a shame. Social media has been a massive mistake. If we lived in a moral and just world it would have been outlawed years ago.

  19. Gather round people, here be a troll in its natural habitat.

  20. The worst part of this is sort of abuse is that it was to be expected. Latifi or any other driver, team member or FIA official do not deserve violence or death threats regardless of how they affected the championship decider.

    This tribalism around favourite drivers and teams is not new to F1, and policing social media is obviously a difficult task. However, F1’s management can be proactive elsewhere, such as being more consistent with their rules and enforcing a code of conduct on the teams and the press who have been fanning this toxicity throughout the season.

  21. If i have to beleive that there are also no Max fenbois……

  22. Obviously i do not condone online abuse

    Thank you for making that clear, because, frankly, the rest of your post had me wondering a bit…

  23. MY apologies for grammatical and typo errors

  24. I never even considered him to be a target for comments, it’s not like Piquet Jr doing it for someone else to profit from it. LOL I’m sure someone will try and claim that.

    There is no excuse for hateful comments of any kind, I don’t care if you lost your entire life savings on betting, or if you just really didn’t want someone else to win. It also doesn’t matter what kind of person is the target of it. Why does him being a pay driver matter? Just because someone has something you don’t have they are OK to be a target? Does money make people more resilient to hate somehow? Why does someone’s Dad change how we can treat someone?

    On pay drivers, they’ve existed since the dawn of F1 and they’ll continue. Rich people always have and always will be in F1 and that goes for up and down the grid – you don’t get to F1 now without having a richer than average family. Again, just because someone has money doesn’t make it OK to target them with abuse. Nothing about someone makes it OK.

    For example, I don’t agree with Masi in this instance of the restart at all, but I backed him up earlier in the season when I thought people gave him a bad time for little reason. I’m not now going to write hateful things about him. I think he made a mistake, that’s all.

    I think a lot more people in the world need a good course on what constructive criticism is. These people aren’t saying anything constructive, they’re being abusive.

    IMO if you wouldn’t say what you write online about someone to that persons face, you shouldn’t write it. If people would say those things then those people really need some help with their feelings.

    As for Trolls, just go and learn some manners and come back when you’re prepared to be civilised.

    1. @mysticarl Agree 100%. And you’re right, there are (naturally) some people claiming Latifi was involved in some kind of Red Bull conspiracy so that Verstappen could win the title. I see absolutely no evidence for that whatsoever.

      As you say, the mistake here is on Masi. I too have defended Masi at some points this season (mainly when people are blaming him for decisions he has nothing to do with, such as penalties (dealt with by the stewards) or stuff in Formula 2, which has its own race director), but he’s been making more and more mistakes, with the worst being in Abu Dhabi. But he doesn’t deserve death threats or abuse for it. Completely agree about the need for constructive criticism, not abusive criticism.

      Even worse, if you saw the round-up this morning you may be aware that people have been sending abuse and threats to someone unfortunate enough to have the name “michaelmasini1” on Instagram, thinking it’s Masi, when it’s just some random guy. That’s not acceptable.

      And agree about pay drivers as well. They’re a necessary evil to keep some of the talent in the sport. I reckon without Latifi last year, Williams had a very high chance of going bust in lockdown, resulting in Russell also losing his seat and hundreds of people losing their jobs. Similarly, Stroll is at Aston Martin because his dad stopped them going bust in 2018, allowing Perez to keep his seat. This still doesn’t mean they should be a target for abuse.

      Abuse is never acceptable, online or in person, regardless of their background.

      (btw your comment should be COTD)

  25. They found out all these messages came from just 1 IP: Wolff’s motorhome.

  26. @ccpbioweapon I think Latifi makes it pretty clear that he’s fine with civil, constructive criticism. What isn’t okay is being sent death threats and hateful comments, in the same way people sending racist abuse to Hamilton after Silverstone was abhorrent.

    I agree that pay drivers are not ideal, but at the same time they’re probably a necessary evil. Without the Latifi money, Williams would probably have gone out of business last year, losing Russell (very much a talented driver) his seat and hundreds of people their jobs. Similarly, without the Mazepin/Stroll money, Haas and Aston Martin (well, Force India as they were at the time) would have been severely struggling or completely bust, again costing hundreds of people their jobs. I too would rather see Piastri, De Vries, even Ilott in F1 instead of the likes of Stroll, Zhou and Latifi, but if you stop pay drivers, you most likely won’t be opening more seats to the other talent, but closing another avenue because the team collapses.

  27. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    22nd December 2021, 12:01

    He will always be an unwilling, we hope, participant in the championship deciding race.

    The fact that it was such a strange crash between the last 2 drivers when every other driver was trying to avoid getting involved in the championship for 6-12 races, especially with regard to Max, will always raise questions as to what really happened there.

    1. will always raise questions as to what really happened there.

      Not hard to see if you watched f1 before. He crashed.

    2. @freelittlebirds

      He will always be an unwilling, we hope, participant in the championship deciding race.

      Are you seething against Latifi? Strange choice of article to comment this, even if it’s true, it does look like you condone the abuse against him. But again, not that it would be something surprisingly enough coming from a lunatic as you’re used to be here.

      The fact that it was such a strange crash between the last 2 drivers when every other driver was trying to avoid getting involved in the championship for 6-12 races, especially with regard to Max, will always raise questions as to what really happened there.

      What a rubbish. The other drivers were interested in their own business in first place, not “avoid getting involved in the championship” at any costs. This habit of putting Lewis in a pedestal (and Max as some kind of evil demoniac but great force) is cutting you loose from reality. Watch out!
      How rare is a crash in Abu Dhabi race, in all seriousness? You should try to take something inconvenient as a coincidence and not a malignant plot at least once in life.

    3. Hard to see what happened? He was racing a rival for position. He made an error. He crashed. The End.

      It’s not just about who’s first our second. Everybody moans when races are a procession.
      Latifi may not be the best, but he’s had his moments this season

    4. @freelittlebirds – Are you seriously suggesting that maybe he crashed deliberately because he knew it would cause a safety car and Masi would make decisions that landed up with Max winning…Really? I hope i have misunderstood your post, otherwise it is properly stupid.

    5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      25th December 2021, 19:17

      @malrg @nvherman That still doesn’t change the fact that it was a very awkward crash while chasing another driver. If folks drove like that, we’d have safety cars every other lap…

  28. (@xpucksterx)
    So you’re probably one of “them”.
    Be proud on a life as a coward.

  29. Fact: Foolish anonymous “fans” like you are killing this site.
    At least you show the limits a Lewis fan will pass if it suits him.

  30. Much of what Latifi experienced was the direct result of the childish and maniacal actions of that great hypocrite Toto Wolff. Everyone talks about the final safety car period and restart, but do you remember the earlier virtual safety car period? Toto was ordering Masi what to do. How inappropriate! What Masi did at the final restart was a mess, but Hamilton lost the race and the title due to Red Bull’s superior pit strategy and Max’s aggressiveness. Even Lewis couldn’t predict that move. For those sour Hamilton fans who can’t accept it, people like Latifi will be easy targets.

  31. So Glock gained Lewis a title and Lattifi took one?


    Also Vettel potentially took 2 titles from Lewis, as did pesty Alonso..

    Not to mention dastardly Nico… How many titles would Lewis have if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and one race director.

    1. I know right? It really sucks when you don’t get the title because someone finished ahead of you…

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