Latifi deleted social media apps from phone amid fallout from F1 title decider
Nicholas Latifi has admitted he resorted to deleting social media apps amid the fallout from last season’s controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was Latifi’s crash which brought out the safety car in the closing stages of the drivers’ championship decider. At the time, Lewis Hamilton was leading comfortably and was on course to deny Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and take a record-breaking eighth title.
However, then race director Michael Masi’s handling of the safety car period saw him only allow the cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to un-lap themselves. The Australian then called the safety car in earlier than the rules state which allowed for one more racing lap.
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As a result, Verstappen, on fresh tyres, was able to barge past Hamilton on the final lap and take the crown in hugely contentious fashion. While Masi received much criticism and eventually lost his job as a result, Latifi’s unwitting role in the drama also saw him come in for harsh and unfair criticism on social media.
The abuse he received was so intense, he even deleted his social media apps for a time before reinstalling them gradually. Latifi recalled the period during the latest edition of F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast, where he also discussed his impending departure from Williams after three years with the team.
“It was two days where I took social media off my phone. I then returned to it slowly. I reinstalled the apps on my phone,” he said.
“I heard from my PR people and family members who were still on social media how bad it was, all the online hate, the abuse. That’s never OK, it doesn’t matter what was at stake.”
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After being guilty of nothing more than a simple driver error, Latifi says his conscience is clear.
“I did nothing wrong,” he added. “If I’d purposely crashed, that’s a different story, but I was just doing my own race.
“That’s the reality of F1, you can have 10 different races going on. It’s like you’re in different categories. I was racing with the Haas [of Mick Schumacher] and made a driver error.
“I’m not concerned at that point [about] what’s happening up at the front, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m just in my own race.”
The abuse Latifi received even compelled Hamilton to get in touch and offer his support.
“He has my full support," said Hamilton. "And I know how difficult it can be in those situations. It’s important for him to know that he has support from people around him.”
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