Nicholas Latifi has condemned the "shocking" abuse and death threats directed towards him by online trolls after he inadvertently played a decisive role in the F1 title race.
The Canadian's crash at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix led to the late safety car which allowed Max Verstappen to close the gap to Lewis Hamilton and eventually overtake him on the final lap.
That overtake saw the Dutchman snatch both the race win and world title away from his more experience rival in dramatic and controversial circumstances.
He had not meant it, but Latifi's crash changed the course of the title race – without that safety car, Hamilton looked set to breeze to victory after dominating the race.
The Williams racer had been quiet on social media in the week after the race, but broke his silence on Tuesday to call out those who felt it had been acceptable to direct vile abuse and threats at him.
"I’ve purposely been staying away from social media to kind of let things settle down from the events of the last race," Latifi wrote in a heartfelt statement.
"A lot has been made of the situation that came about after my retirement in Abu Dhabi. I’ve received thousands of messages to my social media accounts – publicly and via DMs. Most have been supportive, but there’s been a lot of hate and abuse, too.
"I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to go about handling this. Do I ignore it and carry on? Or do I address it and tackle the bigger issue that is sadly a reality when you use social media?
"This isn’t some scripted statement, but rather me speaking my mind in the hope that this maybe sparks another conversation about online bullying and the drastic consequences it can have on people.
"Using social media as a channel to attack somebody with messages of hate, abuse and threats of violence is shocking – and something I am calling out."
The Canadian went on to reveal that he had deleted the Twitter and Instagram apps from his phone in the aftermath of the race as he had anticipated some backlash over the crash and what it led to.
But when he logged back on he was still shocked by the level of abuse that had been sent his way.
"The ensuing hate, abuse, and threats on social media were not really a surprise to me as it’s just the stark reality of the world we live in right now," Latifi continued.
"I’m no stranger to being talked about negatively online, I think every sports person who competes on the world stage knows they’re under extreme scrutiny and this comes with the territory sometimes.
"But as we’ve seen time and time again, across all different sports, it only takes one incident at the wrong time to have things completely blown out of proportion and bring out the worst in people who are so-called 'fans' of the sport.
"What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.
"People will have their opinions, and that’s fine. Having a thick skin is a huge part of being an athlete, especially when you are constantly in a position to be scrutinized.
"But many of the comments I received last week crossed the line into something far more extreme.
"It concerns me how somebody else might react if this same level of abuse was ever directed at them. No-one should let the activities of a vocal minority dictate who they are."
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