Latifi wants to help tackle online abuse after Abu Dhabi ordeal

2022 F1 season

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Nicholas Latifi says the online abuse he received after the Abu Dhabi grand prix prompted him to hire security staff as a precaution – and wants to work against it happening to others.

The Williams driver revealed in December he received extreme online abuse including death threats in the days following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He was targeted after his crash which caused a Safety Car period late in the race which proved a deciding factor in the title fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

During the abuse, Latifi said he did feel legitimately threatened. “It sounds silly to some people,” he said “but 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 who was having a bad day and they’re intoxicated, under the influence of something and [have] these really extreme opinions and all it takes is that one-in-a-million person.”

He admitted that the threats had been worrying enough to hire private security. “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. It sounds funny, sounds silly but we definitely did take threats seriously because again, you really don’t know what could happen.” Latifi called the situation “just an unfortunate part of the world we live in.”

“It’s always going to be there, not even in sports – entertainment, arts industry,” he continued. Latifi believes there is more to be done to address toxic environments online. “Personally, since being back from my holidays I’ve been looking at ways myself, first doing a bit of research.”

Latifi said his focus is “specifically along the themes of what I endured with the cyber-bullying, hate, online abuse, which I guess is one of the more new generation’s common contributors to potential mental health issues, especially for younger people, for teens and whatnot.

“I’ve been looking at ways to try and get involved, looking at different organisations. There will be some things throughout the year that I will be doing, obviously there’s nothing to say or announce yet. I think it is a very serious topic, especially now more than ever. Maybe in previous years it was a topic that maybe a lot of people didn’t want to speak about, but it is one of the most important things in modern times.”

Lando Norris, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2021
Lando Norris has been outspoken about mental health
Latifi noted fellow F1 driver Lando Norris’s advocacy work around mental health issues. “I think it is important to be open, to talk about these certain things. Obviously Lando is one of the outspoken drivers about it. I think everyone knows – drivers, teams, organisations as a whole – it’s something that can definitely be pushed a bit more.”

Norris said “it was a shame to see” the abuse Latifi received. “Obviously, it’s just nothing that you ever want, he deserved none of it in any way. It’s just a shame.” He agreed such problems are “not just Formula 1, it’s everywhere in sport, football and whatever as well.

“It’s something I’ve learnt over the past few seasons already, that there just always seem to be those people out there who, I guess, that’s the only thing they’re doing with their lives, they’ve got nothing better than to attack those people and just make fun of people and those kind of things. It sucks and you just hate to see and maybe it affects you in a small way but nothing more than that, hopefully, anyway.”

He said that he tried to see online abuse as funny and “kind of take it as a laugh, as a joke rather than take any of it personally because there’s nothing you can do, you’ve got to focus on your own job, on your laps or whatever and if something happens then that’s out of your hands, there’s no reason you should take the blame for it.”

Norris said that “hopefully it can change” but in the interim, drivers had to “not care about it really. It’s quite simple or blunt but you’ve just got to not care what people say, up to a certain standard and just get on with things.

“Hopefully it can get better, there’s a lot of effort that us as a team and Formula 1 are doing about these kind of things and hopefully it can just continue to improve and get rid of those people.”

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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16 comments on “Latifi wants to help tackle online abuse after Abu Dhabi ordeal”

  1. I still can’t believe these guys would ever look at social media. I mean what millionaire would bother with it? It’s opium for the masses and not these guys. Hire someone to run it and have private accounts for your friends and families. Big egos and thin skins I guess.

    1. I think something people forget is firstly that these drivers are all quite young, so grew up on social media and secondly that the life of an F1 driver is, well, quite boring. They’re athletes who travel a lot, so social media is a way to spend time – it’s not like they can drink their way through a transatlantic flight in the middle of a triple header – as well as somewhere to stay in touch with their friends and family. Although lots of them have social media managers they retain control of their personal accounts quite jealously and most of what they post is their own content because it’s something they’re used to having, an element of their image (which is overwhelmingly media-groomed) that they keep hold of. Having a rockstar following is the outrageous supercar purchase of 2022.

      I don’t have anything like the following of an F1 driver (although a bit more than some Formula E ones) and I turned all my Twitter notifications off about two years ago. It means I can’t see when people genuinely reply to my tweets if I don’t follow them already but it also means I don’t have the slews of people @ mentioning me to tell me how stupid/awful/etc I am, as well as (inevitably) threats and garbage. Unfortunately, the latter massively outweighs the former and while I did change how I use social media (and sometimes do use a social media manager, like during the London Eprix, because I knew it would be upsetting) it’s still a primary way for me to keep in touch with people. And I still like the interaction – sort of, sometimes.

      On the other hand, it’s done something awful to my brain where I can’t accept anyone being nice, ever. Compliments upset me in a kind of feral, wounded way that spins my brain out. I don’t really care what people say about me but it’s definitely not a normal sense of that, it’s a sort of cut-off numbness to it. Maybe I just shouldn’t look but then I like to think I can do enough good to not necessarily outweigh the bad but maybe at least offset the psychic damage, since that’s only to me and I know that me being around and vocal on Twitter does make eg: LGBTQ+ fans feel more included. It’s a weird balance and I understand why the drivers would feel both beholden to it and like they don’t want to let it go.

      And as for why they wouldn’t give it up? Well, you’ve sort of outlined it there anyway: they’d get called thin-skinned. Who can’t take a few thousand detailed death threats before breakfast, huh?

      1. Fair enough. I also wonder why the teams don’t take it away from them while they are contracted. I would want full control when that driver represented my company. This much control of something like this seems an anachronism in today’s world.

      2. Twitter is a toxic hellhole and nothing saddens me quite like the unmentioned consensus that Twitter is somehow of tantamount importance to any proper discourse, discussion of a thing or presence in the public. It really is a pathetically ugly bubble that needs popping – the sentiments you’re describing don’t only apply to journalists and athletes, also to plenty of qualified professionals (ask a virologist these last 2 years how Twitter has been) and seemingly all our politicians too.

        I hope, Hazel, you and others can eventually shrug off this parasitic influence on all internet media and step away from the blindingly dumb illusion that the notion that any Joe public can blast a notification in your face with their absolutely unqualified reckoning is a good thing or important or useful in any way.

        Only unhappy customers comment – this is an age old wisdom from the hospitality business – so you should know with every bitingly petty comment you discard, there are 99 that weren’t written which would have said “this article was fine, thanks for the info”.

        Screw Twitter – the centralisation of everything on the internet is a terrible idea. Long live specialised sites like these and corners of the internet wholly set aside to the discussion of vintage Robot Wars episodes and the like.

      3. On the other hand, it’s done something awful to my brain where I can’t accept anyone being nice, ever. Compliments upset me in a kind of feral, wounded way that spins my brain out.

        I was going to say what a great post Hazel! :O)?
        I think you’ve summed it up well. Personally I can’t stand Twitter, I saw the factional nastiness it almost immediately brewed in my own niche area and that has only become sedimented over the years. Who knows what it has done to all our collective brains, certainly not something good (especially in political terms).
        I really feel for Latifi and find it completely bizarre that he would be blamed or become a target. I understand why he hired security. I’m sure you can tell yourself that 99.9% is people sounding off their ill-contained and misdirected anger virtually. But there’s always that 0.1% who might take it further.

    2. While the idea of F1 drivers with well developed egos is probably not far fetched, I do not agree that responding with caution to threats of violence equals thin skin, nor that it is something to be ignored.

      As a general consideration (so this is not in response to views set out in your post above, @darryn) I do not believe that determining whether something is abuse should be left to the sender of a message alone.

    3. Stefan Tielemans
      17th February 2022, 10:09

      I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of the contract with sponsors or other stakeholders. These guys are walking advertising boards and companies expect a decent amount of exposure. So in a way it might be part of the job to maintain a social media profile.

  2. And people still wonder/criticise/complain/draw conclusions etc etc…why Lewis blew it into touch for 2 months…

  3. So effectively a bodyguard when moving around in London.
    Understandable & a wise move, although I doubt most people even recognize him.
    By this, I mean he’s one of those F1 drivers (present or former) who probably can walk & travel around in places without getting recognized easily by randoms.

    1. Coventry Climax
      17th February 2022, 0:14

      I expected a much less disappointing reply from you, @jerejj.

      1. But he’s not wrong, is he? If I show my parents or my girlfriend a picture of Hamilton or Valentino Rossi, they’ll immediately know who they are. If I show them a picture of Latifi or Luca Marini, they’ll most likely have no clue who they are.

        1. @warheart I’d say if I showed any of the 100 people I regularly associate with, not a single one of them would recognise Hamilton or any F1 driver if they were in street clothes. Even in racing suits most people wouldn’t have a clue.

          In this F1 bubble, we all easily recognise the big names, but outside in normal reality, very, very few people have any idea who any of these F1 super famous people are.

  4. How to stop online abuse:
    step 1 – log off from social media
    step 2 – if your work requires you maintain a social media presence, dont read the online abuse.
    step 3 – success
    If a troll trolls on in the internet and nobody feeds it, does the troll really trolled?

  5. You almost need to train people how to use the internet and how to formulate arguments. Objectivity has died and people get so worked up in their own opinion that they simply resort to ad hominen attacks when someone challenges their point of view. Cognitive dissonance I suppose but it gets really ugly really fast. You see it just about everywhere these days. It’s probably good not to write something that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face…

    1. These sm attacks are everywhere unfortunately. For all social media accounts you should be checked and registered. There should be a law. Most people dare to say these things because its anonymous. Face to face they wouldn’t dare.

  6. Hell hath no fury like a Hamilton fan scorned…

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