Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton has called out social media platforms for not doing “enough work” to stamp out abuse, in reference to the death threats received by his F1 peer Nicholas Latifi.
Williams driver Latifi received a barrage of hateful messages across Twitter and Instagram, including apparent death threats, after his crash late in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix triggered the safety car interruption that was ultimately parlayed into Max Verstappen’s title-deciding overtake on Hamilton.
Though Hamilton, disillusioned by how the conclusion of the race had been officiated, stayed off social media and maintained public silence for nearly two months after Abu Dhabi, he did reach out to Latifi – as the Canadian confirmed a few days earlier during the Williams launch.
Asked about the extreme reactions to Latifi’s tangential role in his title defeat, Hamilton said. “Ultimately, I don’t think there’s been a huge change or shift or enough work that’s been done from these social platforms. We still have to apply pressure for them to make changes.
“Mental health is a real thing and through these social platforms, people are experiencing abuse and no one deserves that and that should never be tolerated.
“And they [the platforms] are able to change these things and make changes. But they don’t seem to do it quick enough.
“So I think we just need to continue to apply pressure.”
Latifi revealed that he’d gone as far as hiring a personal security detail for the immediate aftermath of Abu Dhabi.
“I was in touch with Nicholas,” Hamilton continued. “He has my full support, and I know how difficult it can be in those situations.
“And I think it’s important for him to know that he has support from people around him.
“You could see there’s so much passion within this sport, that’s what really makes this sport so great. There is so much passion, but we’ve got to channel that in a positive way. Not a negative.”
Hamilton’s new team-mate George Russell, who was team-mates with Latifi at Williams for the past two F1 seasons, struck a similar note to Hamilton – while also emphasising how hard Latifi has worked while in F1 and how tricky the Williams car that the Canadian crashed in Abu Dhabi was.
“More needs to be done for athletes, for people in the spotlight, because people behind the keyboard think they have a right to say what they like to someone who is out there trying to make a career for themselves and it’s almost forgotten that everybody is human,” Russell said. “I want to do as much as I can, I know I’m a young racing driver and need to educate myself more about this, but more needs to be done.
“I felt so bad for Nicholas. He’s an amazing guy. He didn’t deserve at all to get what he received.”