Latifi reveals Hamilton message after Abu Dhabi GP abuse, hiring security for London outing

Nicholas Laifi received death threats after his late crash at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Williams driver Nicholas Latifi has revealed that he had to employ personal security in the aftermath of the abhorrent abuse he suffered following the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sir Lewis Hamilton was leading the season-ending race at the Yas Marina Circuit from title rival Max Verstappen, but a late crash for the Canadian resulted in the deployment of the Safety Car.

However, Latifi’s involvement became relatively trivial when a highly controversial restart from race director Michael Masi led to a final lap overtake from Verstappen to claim his first-ever championship.

However, this did not stop a select few Hamilton fans on social media from hurling personal abuse towards the 26-year-old, including death threats.

It became so bad that the Williams driver had to issue a statement condemning the abuse.

“I’ve purposely been staying away from social media to kind of let things settle down from the events of the last race,” the statement read.

“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.

“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.”

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He also revealed that he had deleted certain social media apps in anticipation of further hate aimed towards him.

Latifi has now said that he has moved on from the incident, but reveals that he needed to hire security to keep him and his family safe.

“Yeah, to be honest, it was something we considered,” he said when asked about whether he felt the need to employ security personnel, as quoted by Autosport.

“It sounds silly to some people, but again 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 that’s having a bad day – intoxicated or under the influence of something – and has these really extreme opinions.

“All it takes is that one in a million person.”

The Canadian detailed the necessity to hire protection for himself and his girlfriend while out in public due to the severity of the threats he had received.

“So, [after] some days I was back in London after the race, and I did have some security with me when I was doing certain things,” he explained.

“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.

“So yeah, it sounds funny, it sounds silly, but we definitely did take the threats seriously because you really don’t what could happen.

“It’s just an unfortunate part of the world we live in.”

Hamilton himself recognised the distress caused for Latifi, and sent a message of support while in his self-enforced exile from the outer world following his contentious and heart-breaking defeat to Verstappen.

“[He] did send me a message a few days after [Abu Dhabi],” Latifi revealed.

He did not wish to publicly air the private messages sent by the Briton, but expressed his gratitude for other “messages of support [I received] from other team members at Mercedes as well”.

Multiple teams, drivers and fans immediately showed their support for Latifi after he had detailed the abuse he received, and he is appreciative of this.

“Obviously the whole outcry of support on social media – from multiple drivers and teams across so many different disciplines – was really nice and encouraging to see,” he added.

“Obviously everyone agreed with the whole sentiment and message.”

He then went on to cite the shocking racial abuse Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka received after missing penalties in England’s cruel defeat to Italy in the Euros final in July last year.

“This has not been the only instance of a situation like this with online abuse,” he said.

“Even going outside of motorsport – the next most recent one was probably the Euros with the three English players [Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka] missing the penalties and all the fallback they got after that.”

Ultimately, Latifi hopes that more can be done to combat the awful abuse often seen on social media.

“It’s an issue unfortunately we have in the world we have with social media. Social media brings a lot of good, gives people a lot of access to things that they wouldn’t normally be able to engage with,” he stated.

“But at the same time these negative pitfalls can happen. It would just be nice to find more ways to do better on that front.”

Latifi will partner Alex Albon for the 2022 season, with the Thai-Brit replacing Mercedes-bound George Russell.