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F1 driver Latifi hired bodyguards after ‘extreme’ death threats

Formula One driver Nicholas Latifi revealed on Tuesday that he hired bodyguards in London because of death threats after the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Canadian, who drives for the British-based Williams team, received a torrent of online abuse after his crash resulted in a late safety car that contributed to Britain’s Lewis Hamilton losing the world championship.

Latifi, who had talked about the abuse before, said on Tuesday that it was so extreme he hired personal security for a visit to a Christmas event in the British capital with his model girlfriend Sandra Dziwiszek.

“It sounds silly to some people but at the end of the day you don’t know how serious people are,” the 26-year-old said at Tuesday’s launch of the new Williams car for the 2022 season.

“All it needs is one drunk fan at an airport, or you bump into someone who is having a bad day and they are intoxicated under the influence of something and they have these really extreme opinions. It takes just that one-in-a-million person.

“I was back in London after the race and I had security with me when I went to Winter Wonderland with my girlfriend.

“You have to take the threats seriously because you don’t know what might happen and it is just an unfortunate reality of the world we live in and there were extreme death threats which went way over the line.”

Hamilton was on course to claim a record-breaking eighth world title at the season-ending race in December before Latifi crashed into a wall with five laps left, which led to the deployment of the safety car. That gave Verstappen time to pit for fresher tyres, enabling him to overtake Hamilton when the race was restarted.

“Lewis did send me a message a few days after the race,” Latifi added.

“I will not go into what he said, but I got messages of support from other team members at Mercedes and there was an outcry of support from drivers and teams on social media, too, which was nice to see.”

Latifi will be partnered by London-born Thai driver Alexander Albon at Williams this season following George Russell’s departure to Mercedes.

The British team, heading into an F1 season for the first time since founder Frank Williams died in November, finished eighth in the constructor standings in 2021.

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