“What shocked me was the extreme tone of hatred, abuse and even death threats I received …”
This, from a current Formula 1 driver, about an accident they had in a race – not to mention any other background that might exist – is something they should never have to write down.
This is just one line of a very well written and admirable statement from Nicholas Latifi. It was not a PR game or a message encouraged by the team. It was the young Canadian who wanted to speak out after receiving outrageous comments via social media after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
For those who are struggling to understand why – and I hope there are many – it revolves around the fact that Latifi crashed and triggered the Safety Car period which then led to the prank. absolute that was the restart of the race, and finally Max Verstappen overhaul Lewis Hamilton.
There are still so many unanswered questions about how the rules were interpreted that led to a one-lap shootout where Verstappen had a clear advantage on the tires, as the regulations do not appear to allow the manager to race to allow only the pilots of their choice to disembark. themselves behind a safety car – it’s all or nothing.
But what is not in question is the role of Latifi in all of this. His incident had absolutely nothing to do with the shocking FIA handling of what followed.
Latifi, like all the drivers on the grid, was doing everything to get the best possible result for his team in the last race of the season. He had just been passed by Mick Schumacher at turn 9, running wide as a result, and dirtying his tires.
Understandably, Latifi didn’t want his season to end with a Haas gaining the upper hand and pushed to stay close to Schumacher. But he pushed a little too far, lost the rear in the dirty air behind the car in front and hit the barrier.
And yet somehow some people want to equate this with why the driver they are “supporting” lost the championship.
âThinking back to what happened during the race, there was really only one group of people I had to apologize to for the DNF: my team,â wrote Latifi. âI did it right after. Everything else that followed was out of my control.
âSome people said I was running for a position that didn’t matter with only a handful of laps remaining. But whether I’m racing for wins, podiums, points or even last place, I will always give my maximum up to the checkered flag. I am the same as all the other drivers on the grid in this regard. For people who don’t understand or agree with this, that’s fine with me. You can have your opinion. But using these opinions to fuel hatred, abuse and threats of violence, not only towards me but also towards those close to me, tells me that these people are not true fans of the sport.
I have used the word support in quotes above because in my mind there is nothing positive about abusing someone else. How does this help the rider or the team you are supporting? Do you think they get some kind of performance boost seeing horrible comments being made about rivals?
âFortunately, I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin and been in this world long enough that I can do a good job of just letting any negativity wash over me,â Latifi continues. “But I know I’m not the only one who thinks that a negative comment always seems to stand out more – and can sometimes be enough to drown out 100 positive comments.”
And I can identify (on a much smaller and less significant scale) with Latifi on this last point. On Sunday, on my first full day off in about four weeks, considering how the season has unfolded, I tweeted about watching sports at home:
Relax on the couch with beer and chocolate while watching football, leaving others to worry about controversial decisions. What a difference a week makes
– Chris Medland (@ ChrisMedlandF1) December 19, 2021
Now, I don’t mind people saying “I don’t care” or the like, seeing as I am widely followed for what happens on an F1 weekend and not for my random thoughts on football, but I was a little shocked to find the tweet made me the target of abuse for allegedly “sweeping under the carpet” what had happened in Abu Dhabi, being “an accomplice in corruption” and my tweet exercising ” the power of privilege “.
These comments were from people claiming to be Hamilton fans – as I’m sure they were the same ones threatening Latifi – and I couldn’t help but try to defend myself. Because as Latifi says, the negative comment always seems to stand out more. I thought I was just tweeting about what I was doing on my day off, in a way that had nothing to do with an opinion about the race that had taken place a week earlier.
At one point, I found myself shaking at the way some people twist every answer or word to try and abuse it further. The fact that I’m raving about it now tells you how angry it made me. And it was still at a rather insignificant level of people questioning my integrity and deciding to take four 1000 words out of context in an attempt to defame you. I can’t imagine how Latifi felt reading the death threats.
Surely these “fans” would never say the words they write on social media to Latifi himself? We have an amazing set of RACER readers who love motorsport and can be extremely passionate about what’s going on in racing, and I really can’t believe someone would approach a driver and threaten to kill him for making a mistake in a race. But there are people who think it’s OK on other platforms, whether it’s to the biggest names or even to their fellow spectators for supporting someone else.
On the one hand, it looks like misplaced anger, as people express their frustrations over anything vaguely associated with sport because they are so turned on by the unfair sporting of the way the rules have been enforced. in Abu Dhabi. But on the other hand, it’s just the continuation of a massive issue where people aren’t held accountable for their actions online while hiding behind a screen.
âAs soon as the checkered flag fell, I knew how things were going to go on social media. The fact that I thought it would be best to delete Instagram and Twitter on my phone for a few days says all we need to know about the cruelty of the online world, âLatifi wrote.
Hope I’m screaming into the void here and no one is reading this who needs to hear it, but if so can’t you see how damaging what you’re doing is? You get this amazing access – the ability to communicate directly with a driver – and use it in such a way that they opt out of social media, at least for a while.
The platforms themselves need to do more, but for now they are frustrating and lax about giving consequences to threatening and abusive behavior.
While it still is, which is why it shouldn’t just be abuse topics – like Latifi – to call it when it happens. Real fans, real supporters, must do the same. Because when it is allowed and not controlled, it hurts not only the stars of the race, but also the fans who want to be able to get as close to their sport as possible.
Social media will likely be the vehicle Hamilton uses to publicly express his feelings about what happened in these recent rounds, and it will reach hundreds of millions of people. Is it unbelievable? It’s a platform for people and a connection for real fans that needs to be protected.
Don’t be one of the few idiots who put it all in jeopardy.