Latifi hired a bodyguard after Abu Dhabi Formula 1 crash – What Williams driver Nicholas Latifi had to go through with abuse from Lewis Hamilton fans after the 2021 F1 finale was “completely unacceptable”, says team boss Jost Capito – it was later revealed the Canadian hired a bodyguard to protect him from Lewis Hamilton fans.
An accident by Latifi shortly before the end of the race had triggered the decisive safety car phase, at the end of which Max Verstappen passed Lewis Hamilton to secure the world championship title in the last race lap of the year. Latifi then faced a lot of hate and threats on social media.
Latifi himself went into hiding for the time being and stayed away from social media. And when he went out in public in his adopted home of London, he took a bodyguard with him. That’s how worried he was that one of the “haters”, fans of Lewis Hamilton, in the social networks might back up his words with action.
“It might sound stupid to some, but the bottom line is you just don’t know how serious people are,” Latifi says. “It might only take one drunk fan at the airport or you meet someone with extreme views who is having a bad day. All it takes is one in a million.”
Latifi recognises a “problem with social media”
He has “taken the online threats seriously”, Latifi continues, “because you just don’t know what could happen. Unfortunately, that’s also part of the world we live in today.”
“We have a problem with social media here, unfortunately. Social media brings a lot of good things, provides people with opportunities to share that wouldn’t otherwise exist. But there are also these negative side effects. And it would be really nice if we could find ways to be better at this.”
McLaren driver Lando Norris can only agree with his Formula 1 colleague: “We as a team and also Formula 1 are doing a lot to improve the situation. I hope we see a change here.”
Norris: Don’t take it personally
Norris states that he himself has had less blatant experiences like Latifi, but has also experienced hatred on the internet: “I’ve learned in my first three seasons of Formula One that there are people who have nothing better to do in their lives than attack other people.”
“What that does to me? Not much, and hopefully it stays that way. I take it rather humorously and don’t take it personally, because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. You have to concentrate on your work and you have to ignore the rest to a certain extent.”
Latifi found the latter difficult, for said reasons. Williams team boss Jost Capito also felt compelled to act: “It’s difficult to do more than just give mental support. Of course, we encouraged Nicholas that he had done nothing wrong. It was racing and in racing sometimes things happen.”
Latifi made a statement against hate
Capito explicitly welcomes the way his driver Latifi took a clear statement against hate on the internet after the self-imposed social media time-out. “I think that was very helpful, and not just for himself,” Capito says. “And it has only made him stronger.”
Latifi enters his third Formula One season at Williams in 2022 and will have a new teammate in Alexander Albon after George Russell left the team for Mercedes.