Formula 1, the highest tier of international motorsport and one of the most popular sports in the world, has announced that the 2022 Russian Grand Prix will not go ahead, in light of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. It’s an uncharacteristically proactive move from an enterprise that rarely takes any sort of political position.
“The FIA Formula 1 World Championship visits countries all over the world with a positive vision to unite people, bringing nations together,” the sport’s organisers explained in a statement released last night. The statement continues:
“We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.”
“On Thursday evening [European time] Formula 1, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.”
This announcement came less than 24 hours after one of the sport’s biggest stars, four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, said he was boycotting the 2022 Russian Grand Prix in light of the shocking invasion. Seems as if Vettel’s advocacy has had some impact.
“In my personal opinion, obviously I woke up again after this morning’s news, shocked,” the 34-year-old Aston Martin driver said at a press conference after day 2 of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
“I think it’s horrible to see what is happening. Obviously, if you look at the calendar, we have a race scheduled in Russia… I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in that country. I’m sorry for the people, innocent people who are losing their lives, getting killed for stupid reasons under a very strange and mad leadership… My decision is already made.”
Vettel, who has become increasingly vocal on humanitarian issues in recent years, wasn’t the only big-name driver who expressed a desire to skip the Russian Grand Prix ahead of F1’s announcement. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the reigning World Champion, also expressed hesitance about racing in Russia, adding “when a country is at war it is not right to race there, that’s for sure.”
Another former World Champion, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, also weighed in: “we have our opinion and I’m sure it’s the same as everyone… we can make our own decisions for sure but eventually I think Formula One will do the best thing.” Looks like Alonso’s instincts were right.
It’s left the sole Russian driver on the grid, Haas’ Nikita Mazepin (whose oligarch father’s company, petrochemical giant Uralkali, is bankrolling the Haas F1 Team) with egg on his face. Mazepin had previously told Crash.net that he’s still confident the 2022 Russian Grand Prix will go ahead, saying “from the understanding that we’ve had with Formula One, [the] race is going ahead and you will surely see me there.”
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F1 isn’t the only big international sport to snub Russia. For example, UEFA, the most prominent administrative body in association football, has stripped St Petersburg of the Champions League final in June in reaction to the invasion, which has already claimed hundreds of lives.