Formula 1

FIA opts against banning Russian drivers and teams

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
2 min read

The FIA has stopped short of banning Russian drivers from international motorsport competition despite calls to do so in light of the Ukraine crisis.

Last Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered military forces to attack Ukraine.

Since then, there has been a major international backlash against Russia, which has been aided in its war by Belarus, and various sanctions have been imposed.

In addition to Russian businesses and senior officials having their assets seized or frozen, Russia has been cut off from digital banking systems – blocking citizens from sending or receiving money outside the country and using services like Google Pay.

The consequences for Russian individuals have spilled over into sport as well, with Russia banned by football’s governing body FIFA from participating in competitive fixtures.

Tuesday’s extraordinary meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council came after guidance issued by the International Olympic Committee that sporting federations should not allow Russian or Belarusian athletes to compete.

This was a significant recommendation as the FIA follows the Olympic Charter. Ukraine’s motorsport authority had also requested that the FIA bans Russian and Belarusian drivers.

But following the WMSC meeting called by president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA announced that while no international competition would take place in Russia or Belarus until further notice and that their flags and anthems could not be used in international competition, Russian competitors could continue provided they did so “only in their neutral capacity and under the ‘FIA flag’, subject to specific commitment and adherence to the FIA’s principles of peace and political neutrality, until further notice”.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Russian Grand Prix Race Day Sochi, Russia

Ben Sulayem said: “As you know, the FIA is watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and I hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.

“We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and our thoughts are with all those suffering as a result of the events in Ukraine.”

Formula 1’s Russian Grand Prix has now been formally cancelled, along with the supporting F2 round.

Ex-F1 driver Daniil Kvyat, who is due to compete in the World Endurance Championship this season with the G-Drive LMP2 team, had earlier called on sports federations not to impose “unfair” bans on individuals.

The FIA’s decision leaves the future of Haas F1 driver Nikita Mazepin uncertain.

While he would be able to compete under a neutral flag, Haas is still set for important legal talks this week over the continuation of the Uralkali title sponsorship deal that bankrolls Mazepin’s F1 seat. Haas declined to comment on the FIA’s announcement on Tuesday night.

The previous Uralkali branding – which was removed for the final day of last week’s Barcelona test – would be prohibited under the FIA ruling as it represented the Russian national colours.

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