Motor racing: Canadian racer Latifi hired extra security after death threats

Nicholas Latifi had crashed in the closing laps of the race, triggering a safety car that turned the result on its head. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Canadian Formula One driver Nicholas Latifi had to hire extra security after receiving death threats following the controversial season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old crashed in the closing laps of the race, triggering a safety car that turned the result on its head, when an altered restart procedure allowed Red Bull's Max Verstappen to pass Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton on the last lap and deny the Briton an unprecedented eighth title.

Latifi received a barrage of online abuse after the race, which included death threats.

"Yeah, it sounds funny, it sounds silly but we definitely did take threats seriously," he told reporters following the launch of the Williams team's new 2022 livery.

"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," he said, adding he had a security detail with him when he visited Winter Wonderland with his girlfriend.

Latifi addressed the abuse in a statement he published on his website last year, saying he hoped to spark a conversation about the "drastic consequences" of online bullying.

He received a flood of supportive messages, including from Hamilton.

"Lewis did send me a message... just before I released the statement," said Latifi, declining to elaborate on what it was.

"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."

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