FIA president speaks out on online abuse after Lewis Hamilton comments

FIA steward Silvia Bellot was the victim of horrific online abuse following Fernando Alonso's late penalty at the United States Grand Prix.

After two years full of vile online abuse directed at both drivers, teams and FIA personnel, as well as incidents amongst fans at races, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is set to announce a programme to tackle such behaviour.

2022 hasn’t been a year for Formula 1 to be proud of, with the online landscape having become one of toxicity, to the point where Lewis Hamilton has suggested that everyone should “come off” social media.

It comes as a result of daily threats and online abuse members of the F1 community have been victims of, for simply stating their opinion or highlighting what team or driver they support.

In a world of supposed ‘free speech’, no such thing appears possible in the F1 community, unless you’re personally prepared for the indespicable onslaught of abuse and harassment that could potentially follow.

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Max Verstappen has also called for online abuse to stop, with the FIA having reportedly met with bosses of some social media platforms to come to a solution of how to reduce the issue.

The issue also stems, though, from incidents that occur during the races; for example, Nicholas Latifi was subject to death threats after crashing at the 2021 season finale.

Latifi was targeted by trolls for ‘helping’ Verstappen win the World Championship last season, something which has resulted in the Canadian not going on any online platform all year.

Many Red Bull employees have been targeted recently following the recent ‘Cashgate’ scandal, whilst strategist Hannah Schmitz was harassed online for simply smiling.

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Schmitz was targeted following the Dutch Grand Prix, after some questioned if Yuki Tsunoda retired on purpose to help Verstappen win, a preposterous thing to even consider.

She was subject to disgusting comments online, with FIA steward Silvia Bellot having faced the same treatment herself following the United States Grand Prix.

Bellot was subjected to death threats and online abuse, as revealed by Ben Sulayem, for being part of the stewarding panel that awarded Fernando Alonso with a 30-second time penalty after the race for driving with damage.

Alpine and Alonso condemned all the abuse that was aimed at Bellot, with thousands of keyboard warriors unbothered by the mental health implications their hateful comments could have.

With it just a matter of time before someone takes their own life in the F1 community as a result of online abuse, Ben Sulayem has criticised those who are abusing his colleagues, with the president warning those doing so that if they continue “it will destroy” Formula 1.

“It is utterly deplorable that a volunteer such as Silvia or any of our marshals and officials, who volunteer their time to allow us to go racing, is the subject of such hatred,” he said in a column.

“It is totally unacceptable that our volunteers, officials and employees are subjected to this extreme abuse.

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“Without these people there would be no racing. We have to ask ourselves, who would want to pursue becoming a top official in this environment? The reality is obvious, if this continues it will destroy our sport.”

Harassment, racism, catcalling, booing and jeering have also been issues amongst the crowds this season, with the Austrian Grand Prix having been the pinnacle of the issues.

Ben Sulayem is set to announce a programme to tackle these issues imminently, with something desperately needing to be done for the safety of the targeted fans and members of the paddock, not forgetting the victims online as well.