Toronto speedster Nicholas Latifi has spoken out about death threats and abuse online against him after crashing in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to overtake Lewis Hamilton and win the F1 World Driver’s Championship.
Entering the race, Verstappen and Hamilton were tied on points. With five laps to go, Hamilton had built a 12 second lead on his rival, a virtually insurmountable lead in Formula 1.
Enter Latifi. The son of Michael Latifi (founder of Sofina Foods) and Marilena Latifi (member of the Saputo family), Nicholas was born in Montreal but grew up in North York. After working his way up through the lower divisions of motorsports, Latifi caught on with Williams in 2020, the same team on which fellow Canadian Lance Stroll broke into F1 with in 2017.
While Williams boasts an impeccable history in motorsports, recent years have been hard on the team. In that vein, Latifi was in last place when he lost the back end of his car coming out of a corner and slammed into the wall. The pause needed to clean up the wreckage forced the deployment of the safety car and allowed Verstappen to pit for brand new tires without losing too much time.
The safety car stayed out for four laps. By the time racing resumed with one lap to go, Verstappen was inches behind Hamilton and on fresher tires. In short order, he put his Red Bull past Hamilton’s Mercedes and won the World Championship.
Without Latifi’s crash, it’s all but guaranteed that Hamilton would have won the race and Verstappen would have been denied the championship.
Latifi has since endured some abuse from fans of the sport, as his crash had inadvertently influenced a very tight race between Verstappen and Hamilton as title rivals.
— Nicholas Latifi (@NicholasLatifi) December 21, 2021
“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,” Latifi wrote on Twitter. “What shocked me was the extreme tone of the hate, abuse, and even the death threats I received.”
He received message of support and over 150,000 “likes” on the tweet, with Mercedes, the team Hamilton races for, tweeting out a message in support of Latifi.
It was a jubilant Christian Horner (Red Bull’s team principal) who made the promise of free energy drinks for Latifi to Channel 4 shortly after trophy was secured. “Thank you Nicholas Latifi for that safety car…” Horner said. “He’ll be getting a lifetime’s supply of Red Bull, for sure.”
We’ll see what their sales department has to say about that.