FIA president warns Formula 1 could become ‘beyond repair’

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem emphasised the urgency of combating rising online abuse in motorsport.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has issued a grave warning that Formula 1’s future could be irreparably damaged unless swift action is taken to tackle the growing epidemic of online abuse targeting individuals in the motorsport industry.

Last year, it was announced that the governing body of motorsport would harness new AI technology to combat abusive comments on social media platforms across all racing categories, including Formula 1. 

Additionally, F1 launched the ‘Drive It Out’ campaign, specifically designed to crack down on social media abuse.

Former Formula 1 driver Nicholas Latifi has also come forward, sharing his own distressing experience of receiving death threats following his crash in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

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This incident triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to Max Verstappen winning the race and the championship over Lewis Hamilton.

Former F1 Race Director Michael Masi, who oversaw the contentious series of events during the race, admitted that he sought mental health support due to the online abuse he endured.

In a conversation with the Associated Press, Ben Sulayem highlighted the alarming case of a female volunteer race steward who had received death threats targeting both her and her family. 

Stressing the gravity of the situation, he stated, “This is something that I raised my hand about last year because if we don’t have the volunteers, we don’t have a sport. 

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‚ÄúThis issue is just an attack, and if we do not stand up against it, our sport will be beyond repair.”

The rise of online abuse has become an urgent concern within the motorsport community. 

The impact of these vitriolic attacks extends beyond the targeted individuals and poses a significant threat to the entire sport. 

Volunteers, who play an essential role in supporting race events, are particularly vulnerable to such abuse.

Recognising the importance of combating online abuse, the FIA has taken proactive measures by utilising AI technology and implementing campaigns like ‘Drive It Out’. 

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However, more comprehensive and sustained efforts are necessary to safeguard the well-being and integrity of Formula 1 and motorsport as a whole.

As the sport continues to evolve and engage with a global audience, addressing the issue of online abuse becomes increasingly crucial. 

The protection and support of all individuals involved in motorsport, from drivers to officials and volunteers, must be prioritised to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.