Nicholas Latifi has taken to Twitter to deliver an emotional statement following the severe abuse he has received on social media since his crash at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Latifi collided with the barrier at Turn 14 with five laps to go in the season finale, bringing out the Safety Car.
Up to this point, Sir Lewis Hamilton had been leading Max Verstappen by a comfortable margin, and looked set to cruise home to championship glory.
The Canadian’s crash and the subsequent Safety Car, however, allowed Verstappen to pit for fresh tyres and pass Hamilton on the last lap.
Latifi has since received abuse online, with Hamilton and Mercedes fans personally attacking him for the crash that ultimately cost the Brit his eighth F1 title.
Latifi has called out this abuse, saying in a statement: “I’ve purposely been staying away from social media to kind of let things settle down from the events of the last race.
“A lot has been made of the situation that came about after my retirement in Abu Dhabi. I’ve received thousands of messages to my social media accounts – publicly and via DMs. Most have been supportive, but there’s been a lot of hate and abuse, too.
“I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to go about handling this. Do I ignore it and carry on? Or do I address it and tackle the bigger issue that is sadly a reality when you use social media?
“This isn’t some scripted statement, but rather me speaking my mind in the hope that this maybe sparks another conversation about online bullying and the drastic consequences it can have on people.
“Using social media as a channel to attack somebody with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is shocking – and something I am calling out.
“As soon as the chequered flag dropped, I knew how things were likely to play out on social media.”
Latifi then confirmed that he deleted multiple social media apps on his phone, fully aware of the torrent abuse he was about to face.
“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.”
The abuse itself was bearable for the 26-year-old, but the hard part “was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse and even the death threats I received”.
“Having a thick skin is a huge part of being an athlete, especially when you are constantly in a position to be scrutinised. But many of the comments I received last week crossed the line into something far more extreme,” he continued.
“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.
Latifi hopes that his experience can be a learning curve for many, and that it galvanises people to change their approach to social media.
“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.”
Latifi then thanked the fans that “had my back” and hopes that sport can “bring people together, not drive them apart.”
The Canadian will partner the returning Alex Albon at Williams next year, with George Russell leaving the team to join Mercedes.