Nine days after the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Nicholas Latifi reveals he has received death threats. In an open letter, the Williams pilot describes the sick world on social networks. He can deal with hate and hostilities. Others maybe not. Therefore he raises his voice.
Nicholas Latifi involuntarily initiated the turning point in the battle for the Formula 1 World Championship with his accident shortly before the end of the race in Abu Dhabi. The due safety car, the new tires and a restart for one lap threw a life preserver to eventual world champion Max Verstappen. And crashed Lewis Hamilton. Latifi thus became enmeshed in the charged world title fight.
Nine days after the finale, the Williams driver made it public that he even received death threats after his accident. From people who call themselves fans, but aren't really fans. People who suddenly feel great in the anonymity of the internet and social networks. "It takes one incident at the wrong time for things to be taken completely out of context and to bring out the worst in people who call themselves fans of the sport. I know that, but what shocked me was the extreme tone of their hatred and their hostilities up to and including death threats," says the Canadian.
Open letter from Latifi
In his open letter, Latifi describes how he tries to deal with his accident and the incidents that followed. That he wavered between ignoring the comments and responding publicly. That he chose the second option to counter hatred. "This isn't a ready-made statement. I'm offering my opinion in the hope that it might spark further discussion about online bullying and the devastating consequences it can have on people. Using social media as a channel to reach out to someone with Tackling threats of hate, abuse and violence is shocking - and something I oppose."
The fact that he felt it would be best for him to delete Instagram and Twitter from his phone speaks for itself. His voluntary withdrawal from the online world makes it clear how cruel the so-called "social" networks can be, which are supposed to connect people, but sometimes also divide them. They polarize and hostile instead of shaking hands.
He only has to apologize to one faction for his accident. And that's his team. "I did that immediately. Everything that followed after that was out of my control." The majority of the comments were positive and supportive. But the 26-year-old also knows that one negative comment is sometimes enough to drown out 100 good ones.
As a competitive athlete, he can handle it. Some others might not. And anyway, he was just doing his job. Fight for positions - be it first or last. "As an athlete, you put on a thick skin. But a lot of the comments I've received over the past week have crossed a line. It worries me how someone might react when faced with this level of extreme hostility." And further: "There is a competitive spirit in sport by nature. But sport should bring people together and not tear them apart. If it helps just one person to share my thoughts and show the need for action, then it was worth it."