Even F1 stars get bullied online.
In case you were stranded on a deserted island for the last four weeks, you'll know that the 2021 F1 season ended somewhat controversially. And now there's even more controversy because we recently learned that Nicholas Latifi received death threats following the race.
Lewis Hamilton opened a massive gap between him and title contender Max Verstappen. Five laps before the end of the race, Nicholas Latifi binned his Williams. FIA race director, Michael Masi, released the safety car, bringing the pack closer together. So far, standard stuff.
Masi then decided to let the five lapped cars between the two title rivals past the safety car, and the race resumed. Hamilton was on old tires, while Verstappen was on brand-new tires. It took little effort for the Dutch driver to claim the title from that position.
But the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen is irrelevant at this point. We can all agree that death threats against Latifi are not on.
First, a reminder of why Latifi deserves his seat. Before moving on to F1, Latifi finished second in the 2019 F2 series. He was a Renault F1 test driver and a test and reserve driver for Force India before that. Williams, the team started by the recently departed Sir Frank Williams, signed him as a driver in 2020.
At the final race at Yas Marina, Latifi set a qualifying time of 1:24.338s in Q1. That's roughly a second behind Max Verstappen's Q1 time of 1:23.322s.
If you have the skills to set a qualifying time that close to a world champion, by all means, say what you want about the guy. But if you're just a Merc fanboy with a Mercedes-Benz GLE, sit all the way down.
Latifi nearly deactivated his social media accounts following the race, knowing what would follow. He posted a statement on his blog, and it's deeply saddening to read.
"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," wrote Latifi. "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."
The source of the hate stems from the idea that Latifi is the main reason why Verstappen won the title. People have been asking why he felt the need to race Mick Schumacher for a position that simply didn't matter. To us, that particular opinion is even more controversial than Masi's decision. Are people really asking why Latifi felt the need to race for a position? "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," wrote Latifi.
Mercedes-Benz is in full support of Latifi. It recently dropped the appeals process, which makes Max Verstappen the undisputed champion as far as we're concerned.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team responded to Latifi's post, stating that they stand with him in the fight against online hate and abuse.