F1 fans criticised for ‘scary’ reaction to 2021 season

Verstappen and Hamilton produced one of the most epic championship battles

Ex-Formula 1 commentator Alexey Popov has criticised the “scary” reaction of the sport’s fans during the 2021 season and claimed he is currently “disappointed” with those watching.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton produced one of the all-time great title battles as the Dutchman dramatically claimed the championship on the final lap of the last race of the season.

But journalist Popov, often referred to as Russia’s voice of F1, does not like the way motorsport fans have conducted themselves in recent months.

“I am very disappointed with the way Formula 1 fans react to news nowadays,” he said in an interview with Championat.com. “On my YouTube channel I’ve had almost the most views this year of a video with the headline ‘Max quits?’ It was just a reaction to people starting to hype the story – supposedly Max said he was leaving. And I just explained that he wasn’t going anywhere. But the fact itself – such things attract people.

“And what was the story? When I started to unravel the whole tangle, I found the original interview: it was on a BBC podcast. I listened to it twice. To twist what a person has said to such an extent, that’s a real challenge!

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“I understand that it’s an unhealthy story these days, where people aren’t interested in going into detail, but are interested in a big headline, so that they can get into the comments and start bad-mouthing each other.

“I always thought Formula 1 was different from, say, football. I was very happy and proud that we have much more intelligent fans who respect each other. Respectful of the drivers they cheer for, but also of the other drivers and their teams. This year, sometimes it was just scary: I see people talking crap about each other. Honestly, this is not the Formula 1 I was proud of at one point.”

Popov’s comments come after Nicholas Latifi received death threats in the wake of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Williams driver lost control of his car and hit the wall at the Yas Marina Circuit, triggering a safety car with five laps of the race remaining.

Hamilton was on course to win a record-breaking eighth F1 championship but Latifi’s crash changed the course of history, allowing Verstappen to switch onto a fresh set of soft tyres and catch up with Hamilton before overtaking him in a dramatic last-lap shootout.

Latifi apologised for the crash but later went on to reveal the vile abuse he had received on social media.

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