Williams F1 driver Nicholas Latifi has revealed he had to hire extra security after receiving death threats following the controversial final race in Abu Dhabi.
The 26-year-old Canadian crashed in the closing laps of the race, leading to a safety car that impacted the final result.
Lewis Hamilton was in a strong position to win the final race of the 2021 F1 season – and ultimately claim the driver’s championship – before a controversial safety car helped rival Max Verstappen to victory.
The outcome and interpretation of the rules were frustrating for Hamilton, with fans initially questioning if he would return to the sport.
Discussions are still continuing in the months following the incident, with F1 race director Michael Masi’s job potentially at stake.
Latifi said on Tuesday at the launch of the Williams team’s new 2022 livery that the issue was so serious that he even hired personal security for a Christmas event in London he attended with his girlfriend.
“Yeah, it sounds funny, it sounds silly but we definitely did take threats seriously,” Latifi said.
“All it could take is one drunk fan at an airport or you bump into someone who’s having a bad day, intoxicated or under the influence or something and has these really extreme opinions.
“All it takes is that one in a million person so some days I was back in London after the race and I did have some security with me when I was doing certain things.”
Your FW44, ready for the challenges of 2022 💪 pic.twitter.com/4rXOwFaMyI
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) February 15, 2022
Latifi initially addressed the abuse in a statement last year, saying he hoped to spark discourse about the serious nature and implications of online bullying.
He also revealed he received a number of supportive messages, including one from Hamilton.
“Lewis [Hamilton] did send me a message … just before I released the statement,” Latifi said.
“I did get some messages of support from other team members at Mercedes as well.
“Obviously, the whole outcry (of) support on social media from multiple drivers and teams across so many different disciplines was really nice to see, encouraging to see.
“Obviously everyone agreed with the whole sentiment and message.”
Williams heads into the new F1 season for the first time since founder Frank Williams died in November.
The English-based team finished eighth in the constructor standings in 2021.
Latifi remains with the team, whilst Alex Albon comes in to replace George Russell who has moved to Mercedes.
Bahrain will host the opening Grand Prix of the 2022 F1 season from March 18-20.
The Australian Grand Prix is the third race on the calendar, set to be held between April 8-10 following a two-year absence due to COVID-19.