Nicholas Latifi has revealed that he was sent messages of support from Lewis Hamilton and other members of the Mercedes team amid the abuse he received on social media after last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Latifi brought out a late Safety Car in the season finale that inadvertently played a role in the outcome of the championship, as Max Verstappen took the opportunity to pit for fresh tyres and overhaul Hamilton when the race restarted.
In the wake of the incident, Latifi said it was “not my intention” to play a role in the title fight and later released a statement on social media detailing the “hate, abuse and death threats” he received from fans.
Hamilton sends Latifi a message of support
Speaking at the launch of Williams’ new F1 car on Tuesday, Latifi expanded on his social media message and highlighted the support he received from the motorsport community and beyond.
“I felt spreading this message was important; something I wanted to take a stand for,” Latifi told media, including RacingNews365.com.
“In terms of the other support I got afterwards, Lewis did send me a message a few days after… just before I released the statement. Obviously, I won’t go into details [about what was said].
“I did get some messages of support from other team members at Mercedes as well. 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.
“Everyone agreed with the whole sentiment and messaging, and this has not been the only instance of a situation like this with online abuse.
“Social media brings a lot of good, it gives people a lot of access to things that they wouldn’t normally be able to engage with, but at the same time, unfortunately, these negative pitfalls can happen.
“It would just be nice to hopefully find more ways to do better on that front.”
Latifi had security with him after Abu Dhabi race
Earlier on Tuesday, Williams team boss Jost Capito detailed how the outfit supported their driver amid the abuse, which included refraining from posting anything about the Canadian on their social media channels.
Latifi went on to explain just how seriously he took the threats he received, which led to him arranging security in certain public situations.
“It sounds silly to some people, but at the end of the day, you don’t know how serious people are,” said Latifi.
“All it could take is one drunk fan at the airport, or you bump into someone who’s having a bad day, is intoxicated, under the influence of something, and has these really extreme opinions. All it takes is that one in a million person…
“I was back in London after the race [in Abu Dhabi] and I did have some security with me when I was doing certain things. I went to the 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.
“It sounds funny, it sounds silly, but we definitely did take the threat seriously because again, you really don’t know what could happen. It’s just an unfortunate part of the world that we live in.”
Check out Williams’ new F1 challenger, the FW44, which was presented to the world during a special launch ceremony on Tuesday.