United against Online Abuse FIA F1 campaign

Herbert: I received death threats after Alonso penalty in Melbourne


Johnny Herbert revealed shocking death threats he received when Fernando Alonso was penalised in the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix last month, indicating that despite all efforts trolls, abuse and hate on ‘social’ media continue unabated.

On that Sunday, Aston Martin veteran Alonso received a penalty after the Australian Grand Prix, FIA determined that the Spaniard was found to have driven in a “potentially dangerous” manner in violation of Article 33.4 of the sporting regulations.

For that weekend Down Under, the FIA appointed Tim Mayer, Matteo Perini, Matthew Selley and Herbert as F1 Race Stewards. Hence the abuse that followed targeting the ex-Formula 1 driver turned pundit and occasional FIA race steward at select Grand Prix weekends,

In an interview with the Fastest Payout Online Casino media team, Herbert recalled: “I was a steward at the Melbourne GP and the repercussions were awful. I got a torrent of death threats via social media. I am lucky I have got broad shoulders. I find it pathetic that I was the one thrown under the bus.

“There were four stewards and we all discussed it. We have to make a decision with what is put in front of us and hear from both drivers, Alonso and George Russell. We had already seen data and analysed it along with the teams’ own data. So we are very aware of what has happened before they come into the room.

“It was so black and white there was no way there was any mitigation. And the speed at which it all happened was another factor. 300km per hour was the entry speed at that particular point.

Herbert: It has not put me off stewarding

Folle F1: Herbert prima critica Red Bull e poi 'arbitra' a Melbourne - Herbert: It has not put me off stewarding - Formula 1

Herbert continued: “There were messages with dagger emojis at the bottom of the screen; people saying we know where you live, we will come for you. Most of them were Spanish.”

“They should have understood because it was so clear how and the decision was arrived at in the statement that was put out. People were also saying because I had never been a F1 world champion I was not qualified to have a say in it,” revealed Herbert.

Such incidents have happened in the past, with FIA F1 Stewards hounded after making decisions that do not favour a particular driver. Often nationality motivated, and surely no attraction to volunteer for such an important role.

But Herbert committed to his role for the FIA and remains steadfast: “It has not put me off stewarding. It’s all part and parcel of it, unfortunately. I was the drivers’ steward in Melbourne so when it is a driving steward he is the one who gets the hard time. I accept it. It is not an issue.”

The 59-year-old Briton is a three-time Grand Prix winner and also victorious at the legendary Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race. Experienced and a winner in most categories of car racing he has competed in.

Herbert and Alonso have ‘history’ dating to back when Johnny dared suggest Fernando should leave McLaren where his ‘second coming’ also proved to be ill-fated. A forgettable period in his illustrious F1 career, one that rendered him a backmarker until the end of the first Chapter of his career. The McLaren driver (then) accosted the Sky F1 pundit at the time.

Herbert took up the story: “It goes back to Bahrain a few years ago I think. Some years before when he was with McLaren, Alonso had been on the radio slagging off the engine almost every race saying it was like a GP2 engine. He was really vocal. I was working for Sky and said if Alonso didn’t like it he should leave the team.

Alonso took Johnny’s advice with a much-needed and rewarding sabbatical from F1

2019 le mans winners alonso buemi nakajima

“I didn’t say retire. Then he came up to me live on air in Bahrain and had a dig at me saying he was a world champion and would not retire and become a commentator because you were not a world champion,” recalled Herbert.

Alonso took a two-year sabbatical (2019-2020) where he went on to win Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship (WEC) as well as contesting the Indy 500 and the Dakar Rally before he returned with Alpine.

A move from the faltering French team to Aston Martin revived his career, to the point today where he remains a podium contender, a feisty competitor and still a F1 benchmark at 42.

Like most real F1 fans, Herbert admires Alonso: “I have total respect for what he has done in winning two world championships. He should have had more. Since he did his stint in Indy he has come back a really pleasant man.

“I am glad he is doing the job he is. I have no issues with him. It is not personal. I am not like that. I have real respect for Alonso and everything he has done,” insisted Herbert.

Regarding the hateful online trolling, Herbert elaborated when pressed: “The threats lasted for two weeks and still are coming. It is part of the social media world where everyone has an opinion but don’t have the facts to back it up.

F1’s governing body, the FIA, has since ramped up its campaign to combat the scourge of online abuse by launching a website to further promote the cause.

Herbert: It happens too much now

United Against Online Abuse: FIA ramps up the battle | GRAND PRIX 247

Herbert lamented the harsh reality of the modern world dominated by (un)social media: “Athletes, officials in many sports get bombarded with death threats. And many do suffer a lot because of it. The filth and abuse happens in all walks of life even to ordinary people. Those platforms should be on top of it. But they are not. They allow it to happen. I don’t understand why.

“They should take action. But they say they cannot find a way of stopping it. I don’t believe that. I can laugh about it. We are lucky that it doesn’t affect us. But it does hurt many people. When it does happen, action should be taken. Something has to be done about it. But I never hear anything being done.

“The comments about knowing where I lived. The daggers and the threats that they were going to hurt me. I don’t get the mentality of people who do that. They are not true F1 fans and I am sure Fernando would be embarrassed if he knew that his fans were doing that,” ventured Herbert.

Notably in a recent exclusive interview with AFP and GRANDPRIX247 contributor Agnes Carlier, FIA President Mohammed Ben Suyalem verified Herbert’s revelations, citing the death threats and abuse received by Spanish FIA F1 Steward Silvia Bellot.

Ben Sulayem said: “We launched the campaign against online abuse. At the FIA, we need to protect Silvia. She is not the only one. There are more people like her. FIA gets the blame for everything. It is always the same.
It will never stop. For us, it is not about the blame game. It is about doing the right thing.” (Additional Reporting by Agnes Carlier)