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IndyCar addresses 'unacceptable' Ilott death threats

Former Ferrari junior Callum Ilott was targeted by fans on social media after the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach.

IndyCar has issued a statement in the wake of death threats aimed at Callum Ilott after the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The former Ferrari junior has impressed since joining the American single-seater series last season and has been joined at Juncos by Argentinian touring car champion Agustin Canapino for the current campaign. But In Sunday's event, Ilott rejoined the race from the pits just in front of then-leader Canapino, who was off-sequence with the optimal strategy and holding up the real leaders. The Briton held onto position, as is permitted in IndyCar, but struggled for pace on cold tyres. The backlog led to frantic action, with Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward spinning and Canapino dropping positions. Ilott was targeted by the Argentine's fanbase post-race and revealed the extent of the abuse in a Twitter post. "Genuinely impressed by the amount of death threats and abuse I’ve received," said Ilott. "Definitely a new record by far, really appreciate the effort to help me learn all these new Spanish words." The tongue-in-cheek response was followed by another tweet aimed at Argentine commentator Martin Ponte, with Ilott explaining: "A certain level of professionalism is needed when you hold a microphone that sends a message to 100k+ people. "I suggest you think about the message you want to send to people. I suggest you educate yourself on Indycar racing and commentating to a better standard. Be kind please."

A certain level of professionalism is needed when you hold a microphone that sends a message to 100k+ people. I suggest you think about the message you want to send to people. I suggest you educate yourself on Indycar racing and commentating to a better standard. Be kind please. https://t.co/QJ9HCT0uhH — Callum Ilott (@callum_ilott) April 17, 2023

'One day it will go too far'

Ilott also pointed to the fact some drivers may not be able to respond to the abuse as well as others, adding: "It’s an important reminder to all new and old fans/people. Respect goes both ways. "Although I have thick skin and am used to this behaviour occasionally. One day it will go too far to someone who can’t deal with it as well as others. "It’s unacceptable on any level and those who encourage it should have a real think about the consequences of their actions. "But I would like to thank everyone who has supported me, it means a lot." Both Canapino and O'Ward rallied behind Ilott in the aftermath - his Juncos teammate exonerating any blame whilst the Mexican condemned the abuse. O'Ward, who was also targeted with abuse after separate contact with series legend Scott Dixon, said in an Instagram post: "Having different points of view when it comes to racing and championships is completely natural. In my opinion, it's these differences that make this sport so fascinating.

"It's absolutely unacceptable"

Pato O'Ward

"However, there is a line that should never be crossed. I think it's important to always speak with the knowledge that your words have power - it's incredibly disappointing to see people using their words to purposely hurt, disrespect, threaten and degrade others. It's absolutely unacceptable. "We are all human and to judge us as anything other than that is absolutely mindblowing to me. As if we are not allowed to make mistakes? To drop the ball? To make a bad call? In what world are these standards reasonable? "They aren't, and they never will be. I encourage everyone to choose their words wisely and to seriously consider the damage they are capable of inflicting before speaking them."

IndyCar responds

IndyCar released a statement aimed at diffusing the situation which read: "Over the last 24 hours, some of our drivers have been the target of disrespectful and inappropriate online abuse. There is no place for this behaviour in our sport. "While fierce competition and rivalry will always be a mainstay of IndyCar racing, it's important to showcase and celebrate these attributes with ultimate respect and concern for the well-being of our competitors. "IndyCar is a community that should always strive to build upward with support and appreciation for one another." The incidents follow a concerning trend in motorsport where competitors have found themselves in the firing line from fans. Nicholas Latifi was on the receiving end of death threats after crashing out of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the incident leading to the controversial Safety Car and final lap showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Former FIA race director Michael Masi was also subjected to torrid hatred, whilst last season McLaren's Lando Norris revealed he had also been sent death threats. A study completed by The Female Drive and Areto Labs, which reviewed 295,000 comments across the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP weekend, deemed 25,000 messages as toxic and 2,100 as severely toxic. It was revealed that Max Verstappen and Red Bull were specifically targeted - likely in the aftermath of the Brazilian team orders furore - with 20 percent of comments aimed at the Dutchman abusive and nine percent categorised as high risk.

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