Johnny Herbert received ‘death threats’ as Fernando Alonso fans ‘weaponised’ GP2 saga after Melbourne

Michelle Foster
Fernando Alonso and Johnny Herbert

Johnny Herbert received death threats after the Australian GP

Former F1 driver turned pundit and steward Johnny Herbert revealed he received “a torrent of death threats” for his part in Fernando Alonso’s time penalty at the Australian Grand Prix.

Social media users upset with the penalty even used Herbert’s 2015 Sky comments following Alonso’s infamous “GP2 engine” cries as a “weapon against” him after Melbourne.

Johnny Herbert: I find it pathetic

Alonso was slapped with a 20-second time penalty after the Australian Grand Prix as the stewards, including Herbert, punished him for “potentially dangerous” driving.

It related to a late-race crash for Russell when the Briton, chasing down Alonso, was caught out by the Aston Martin driver braking 100m earlier for Turn 6 than he had on any other lap. Losing downforce, Russell lost control of his W15 and crashed.

Stopping short of calling it brake testing, the Mercedes driver was unhappy with the Spaniard’s antics which were noted by the stewards.

And although there was no contract, they felt Alonso’s driving was “potentially dangerous” and gave him a 20-second penalty and three points on his Super Licence.

Social media users, “most of them Spanish”, sent Herbert death threats while bringing up his 2015 commentary about Alonso “slagging off” Honda at their home race for creating a “GP2 engine”.

“I was a steward at the Melbourne GP and the repercussions were awful,” the Mirror quotes the Briton as having told Fastest Payout Online Casino.

“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.

“It goes back to Bahrain two 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. 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.

“The fans then used that as a weapon against me after Australia.

“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 World Champion I was not qualified to have a say in it.”

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‘I am sure Fernando would be embarrassed if he knew’

The former F1 driver believes Alonso would be “embarrassed” if he knew how his fans were behaving.

He added: “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.

“It happens too much now. 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.”

Despite the social media trolls, Herbert says he will not give up being a steward.

“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,” he said.

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