FIA boss Mohammed ben Sulayem hits out at ‘sustained toxicity’ on social media
FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has joined Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in condemning the “sustained toxicity” on social media platforms.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton said last week that “we should all come off social media” as it was becoming more and more toxic.
The Briton was speaking following Max Verstappen and the Red Bull team’s Sky boycott at the Mexican Grand Prix, which came a week after pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz said Hamilton was “robbed” of an eighth world championship at last year’s much-debated season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Confronting the issue after claiming victory in Mexico, Verstappen said: “You cannot live in the past and you have to move on. Social media is a very toxic place and if you are constantly being like that live on TV then you are making it worse instead of trying to make it better.”
Former race director Michael Masi said he received death threats following his decision to let lapped cars pass the safety car on the final lap in Abu Dhabi, meaning Verstappen had a clear run at Hamilton on much faster tyres.
And Ben Sulayem has revealed that a female steward, Silvia Bellot, also recently received death threats as he called for everyone involved in motorsport to unite to combat “this scourge on our sport”.
In a column on Motorsport.com, Ben Sulayem wrote: “It is utterly deplorable that a volunteer such as Silvia or any of our marshals and officials, who volunteer their time to allow us to go racing, is the subject of such hatred.
“Indeed a number of FIA staff have also been targeted with harassment and hate posts over the past few years.
“It is totally unacceptable that our volunteers, officials and employees are subjected to this extreme abuse. It has no place in our sport. It has a devastating effect on our mental health and that of our loved ones.
“I will always stand up for my staff and volunteers. And let me be clear – without these people there would be no racing.
“We have to ask ourselves, who would want to pursue becoming a top official in this environment? The reality is obvious – if this continues it will destroy our sport.”
Ben Sulayem said he will speak in more detail about a “concerted campaign” to build on the Drive It Out initiative at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix later this month.