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Latifi reacts following social media abuse

NEWS STORY
22/12/2021

In an open letter, Nicholas Latifi has responded to social media abuse and hate following his crash in the final stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which brought about the safety car period.

It was Latifi's crash on the 51st Lap of the race, as be battled with Mick Schumacher, that resulted in the deployment of the safety car, a move that was to turn the race on its head.

While Max Verstappen immediately took the opportunity to pit for soft tyres, Mercedes, fearing he would lose track position, left Lewis Hamilton out on track.

Meanwhile, race director, Michael Masi, who initially ordered lapped cars to hold position and not un-lap themselves, subsequently ordered those cars separating race leader Hamilton and second placed Verstappen - and only those lapped cars - to pass the safety car, thereby giving the Dutchman a free run at his rival.

What happened next is history.

Today, having opted to stay away from social media, Latifi has written an open letter to those - we will not dignify them by using the word fans - who have since sought to subject him to online hate and abuse.

He writes:

Hi everyone,

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.

Going back to the race weekend, as soon as the checkered flag dropped, I knew how things were likely to play out on social media. 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. I'm no stranger to being talked about negatively online, I think every sports person who competes on the world stage knows they're under extreme scrutiny and this comes with the territory sometimes.

But as we've seen time and time again, across all different sports, it only takes one incident at the wrong time to have things completely blown out of proportion and bring out the worst in people who are so-called ‘fans' of the sport. What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.

Reflecting on what happened during the race, there was really only one group of people I needed to apologize to for the DNF: my team. I did that right afterwards. Everything else that followed was out of my control.

Some people said I was racing for a position that didn't matter with only a handful of laps remaining. But whether I am racing for wins, podiums, points or even last place, I will always give it my all until the checkered flag. I'm the same as every other driver on the grid in that regard. To the people who don't understand or don't agree with that, that's fine with me. You can have your opinion. But to use those opinions to fuel hatred, abuse and threats of violence, not only to me, but to those closest to me as well, tells me these people are not true fans of the sport.

Thankfully, I'm comfortable enough in my own skin, and I've been in this world long enough that I can do a pretty good job of just letting any negativity wash over me. But I know I'm not alone in thinking that a negative comment always seems to stick out more - and can sometimes be enough to drown out 100 positive ones.

People will have their opinions, and that's fine. Having a thick skin is a huge part of being an athlete, especially when you are constantly in a position to be scrutinized. But many of the comments I received last week crossed the line into something far more extreme. 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.

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 realize 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 behavior and not stay silent.

To all the fans and people that did have my back during this whole situation, I want to say a huge thank you. I've seen and read a lot of your messages and they are much appreciated. It's nice to know I have so many people supporting me.

Sport is by its very nature competitive - but it should bring people together, not drive them apart. If sharing my thoughts, and highlighting the need for action, helps just one person, then it was worth it.

As we look forward to the New Year, I truly hope my experiences after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix help reinforce that message, and my New Year's resolution is to look at ways I can support that process. Just be kind everyone!

I want to wish you all happy holidays, stay safe, and I look forward to all of us getting back on track in 2022.

Nicky

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Roli, 31/12/2021 10:29

"Didnt help matters when Horner said he would supply Latifi with a years worth of Red Bull. No racer worth his name would ever think of crashing on purpose."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by kenji, 22/12/2021 23:15

"@Defiant/ Spindoctor... Something has gone adrift in the translation. I was not suggesting that Latifi did anything wrong at all and those that choose to take that path are totally misguided. That was not my inference.What I was implying is that when the 'team' lead the primary criticisms with outrageous claims coupled with visual and auditary reactions that then only emboldens the 'sheep' to take that all a step further. I don't for one minute believe that Wolff/Mercedes didn't know or exploit that outcome with their florid rhetoric and accusations that they were 'robbed'! A claim that has been debunked many times over by some sensible people. Unfortunately this entire episode will rumble on for quite some time..It's over and we will soon enter a new era so lets hope that we get some spirited racing in the future and the challenges are fun to watch."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Defiant, 22/12/2021 20:48

"@kenji. I definitely disagree there. None of that is an excuse for abusing Latifi who was just pushing as hard as he could for his own race's outcome.
Having an emotional outburst under pressure like Toto did (one of the equally annoying moaning duo of Wolf & Horner) was understandable and I'd expect something similar from Christian. That does not and never will excuse or condone an attack on Latifi and I don't believe that caused it for one moment.
The comments of manipulation can't be blamed either IMO, I'd be surprised if those comments by Sir Virtue Signal where not aimed squarely at the FIA and Masi.
So, I doubt anyone was hearing that and thinking of Latifi pulling a Nelson move to help out Max.
"

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4. Posted by Spindoctor, 22/12/2021 14:06

"Let's be clear: young Latifi did NOT crash deliberately to upset Hamilton's race, nor to advantage Verstappen. No serious F1 fan is suggesting this & any attacks on "Social Media" are a disgrace.

Having said that it seems that Qanon-style conspiracies are nonetheless rampant, as evidenced by those forlorn folks who have accused Latifi & those equally sad individuals "blaming" Mercedes & Hamilton - as though they had somehow encouraged abuse of Latifi."

Rating: Positive (3)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

5. Posted by aroutis, 22/12/2021 5:22

"What we see here is the pinnacle of hypocricy from Mercedes and Hamilton army (no, I am not dignifying them by using the term "fans").
The same people so easily using the term racism every single chance they get (and don't mind me, some times they are actually right), by stoking the flames every time something does not go their way, now they actually victimized a driver.
To me, it is time for FIA , just like they did with FIA and protected (again, rightfully) Lewis when he fell victim of hateful speech and racism, to do the same , as well as for teams to react.

Failure to do so will be a very dark day for this sport. "

Rating: Positive (2)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

6. Posted by kenji, 22/12/2021 4:45

"@ Defiant...In order to make any sense out of this you need to go back a while and see the pattern. Events like these 'Latifi' episodes have been lying dormant for quite some time. Ever since Mercedes were seriously challenged the 'Mercamp' were ready to call foul at each and every occasion. The Mercamp management were stoking the fires of resentment as a foil for some of their No.1 drivers political interventions. Then to cap it all off the actions of the Mercamp at the very last race helped tip their 'followers' into violent opposition. Wolff physically throwing his headphones away in a fit of anger [ real or acted ] and screaming 'F...you all' for the cameras was the final straw. Even Hamilton declared over the radio, 'The race is being manipulated'...I mean, strong stuff!. These events were I believe all that was needed to galvanise the Hamfosi...and the rest is history."

Rating: Negative (-6)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

7. Posted by Defiant, 22/12/2021 2:58

"Why on earth someone would feel it's acceptable to attack someone for a "sporting" (I use the term lightly) outcome is beyond me. I think that crashing into a wall is already a seriously undesirable thing to happen to any driver. To add insult to injury, attacking him for something he had very little to do with just shows the mentality of these so called fans.
I'm sure Lewis (or I seriously hope he) would be equally disgusted at anyone doing such a thing."

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8. Posted by Kkiirmki, 21/12/2021 20:49

"I can only assume these despicable people, and their disgusting comments he’s referring to, are from a, I’d like to think very small, section of the Hamilton/Mercedes fan base. Probably the same people that will call you a racist if you disagree with any comments from Hamilton, or any person of colour. Why they can’t accept the result with the grace and dignity of Lewis Hamilton, is unbelievable. Well done Nicholas Latifi, what a fantastic statement. There is no excuse for this behaviour. These people should be ashamed of themselves, but something tells me that they lack any moral fortitude anyway."

Rating: Positive (5)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

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