- Formula 1 has announced that the Russian Grand Prix 2022 originally set for September 23 through 25 in Sochi will not be run due to the Ukraine invasion.
- Many of the sport’s top drivers including four time champion Sebastian Vettel have endorsed the decision to cancel the Russian Grand Prix.
- There are also a number of sponsorship implications that must be resolved in the near future.
The entire world has reacted with anger and disgust over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and that includes the professional sports ecosystem. On the same day that soccer’s top organizing body UEFA announced the relocation of the Champions League Final from Russia to Paris, Formula 1 had their own response to the situation.
Formula 1 held a meeting of ‘relevant stakeholders’ and made the decision to not go forward with the Russian Grand Prix 2022 originally set for September 23 through 25 at the Sochi Autodrom:
The text of the Tweet:
“The FIA Formula 1 World Championship visits countries all over the world with a positive vision to unite people, bringing nations together,” Formula One tweeted on Friday. “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 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.”
The reality is that F1 didn’t really have a choice. Had they decided to proceed with the race as scheduled they’d face not only the anger of their fanbase but of their own drivers. That includes four time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel who had already indicated that he wouldn’t race in Russia:
“I should not go, I will not go. It is wrong to race in the country. I am sorry for the innocent people who are being killed for stupid reasons and a very strange and mad leadership.”
Reigning world champion Max Verstappen was on the same page as his Aston Martin rival:
“When a country is at war it is not right to race there.”
British driver Lando Norris, who races for McLaren concurred:
“No, I would not have wanted to go. Out of pure respect for what’s going on. There is no reason we should be able to live our lives normally and go and have a normal race in a country where those things are going on. Alongside Pierre [Gasly] and Seb and many other drivers, I would not want to go.”
UK newspaper The Guardian suggested that had F1 not cancelled the Russian Grand Prix that it would have faced a mass boycott by their drivers. The Russian Grand Prix is particularly symbolic as it was created with the personal involvement of Vladimir Putin and former F1 head Bernie Ecclestone. Putin even handed out trophies to the podium finishers in 2014 and 2015. The race has been run since 2014 at the Sochi Autodrom in Putin’s hometown of Sochi.
F1 is conducting preseason testing in Spain this weekend and there’s already another situation developing related to the Russian invasion. US based Hass Racing has already decided to run a plain white car this weekend after deciding to drop the paint scheme of Russian sponsors Uralkali. In fact, the team has removed most signs of the company’s involvement. The situation is even more complicated than that since one of the Hass team’s drivers is Nikita Mazepin, son of Uralkali founder Dmitry Mazepin. As if that wasn’t messy enough already, Mazepin was one of the business leaders that met with Putin at the Kremlin on Thursday to discuss sanctions imposed on Russia. At this time, Mazepin and his company are not subject to sanctions though he’s known as a close confidant of Putin’s as is Uralkali chairman Sergei Chemezov.