Latifi issued a statement nine days after the final race of the 2021 season, he called the abuses he received on social media, “hoping it might spur another talk of online bullying and the drastic consequences it could have for people.”
The Canadian driver was inadvertently driven to a stunning end to the 2021 title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Ferstappen when he crashed in six laps of the race on the remaining Yas Marina track and launched a safety car – though only after race director Michael Macy later allowed only cars between title contenders to unfold.
Speaking after leading Williams’ Formula One contender in 2022 on Tuesday, Latifi explained that his statement was an “important opportunity to use my platform to spread an important message” about “benevolence”.
Asked how seriously he and his team took the threat of death and whether they took protective measures with the help of security officers, he replied: “Yes, to be honest, that was what we were considering.
“To some it sounds silly, but in the end you don’t know how serious people are.
“All it can take is one drunken fan at the airport, or you’ll run into a person who has a bad day – intoxicated or under the influence of something – and has such really extreme opinions.
“We only need one person per million.
“So [after] A few days I returned to London after the race and I had some security when I was doing certain things.
“I went to Winter Wonderland with my girlfriend – because we failed to enter it before the last block of races – and I had some safety details on that.
“Yeah, yeah, that sounds ridiculous, it sounds silly, but we definitely took the threats seriously because you really don’t know what might happen.
“It’s just an unhappy part of the world we live in.”
Latifi also revealed that that Hamilton “sent me a message a few days later [Abu Dhabi]“.
Although he did not go into the details of their exchange, he noted that he was close to “messages of support [I received] from other team members at Mercedes too ”.
He added: “Obviously, the whole resonance of support on social media – from many riders and teams in many different disciplines – was really enjoyable and encouraging.
“Obviously, everyone agreed with the whole mood and message.
“This is not the only case of such a situation with abuses on the Internet.
“Even going beyond motorsport – the next most recent was probably the euro with three English players [Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka] a penalty miss and all the substitutes they got after that.
“Unfortunately, this is a problem we have in the world with social media. Social media brings a lot of good, giving people wide access to things they would not normally be able to do.
“But at the same time, these negative traps can happen. It would be nice to find more ways to do better on this front. ”