Formula One driver Nicholas Latifi was so affected by social media insults and death threats after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that he hired escorts to visit a London amusement park with his girlfriend.
The 26-year-old Canadian received threats after the final race of the season when he crashed his Williams car into the wall with a few laps to go. This led to the entry of the safety car and a dramatic outcome: Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the last lap to win the title in one of the most controversial moments in F1 history.
“I was back in London after the race and I had security with me when I went to Winter Wonderland with my girlfriend,” Lafiti said on Tuesday, after Williams unveiled the 2022 car at Silverstone. “You have to take threats seriously because you don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s the unfortunate reality of the world we live in and there are some extreme threats that have crossed the line.”
Facing outrage over the manner in which Hamilton lost his eighth title, Latifi was singled out for controversy and took threats after the race in December seriously.
“It will sound ridiculous to some people, but you don’t know how serious people can be,” Latifi said. “It just takes a drunk fan at the airport or you run into someone who’s having a bad day and they’re intoxicated or under the influence and have extreme opinions.”
Latifi anticipated insults after Abu Dhabi, so he deleted the Instagram and Twitter apps from his phone.
“I have been trying to find the best way to deal with this. I either ignore it or move on, or face it and face the reality that sadly is the reality of social media,” she said in a statement at the time. “Using social media as a channel to attack someone with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is appalling and something I will speak out about publicly.”
The 23-race season kicks off on March 20 with the Bahrain Grand Prix. (AP) (GG)