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Ukraine asks FIA to ban Russian/Belarusian drivers amid war

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Ukraine’s motorsport authority has called on the global governing body the FIA to ban all Russian and Belarusian drivers from international competition.

As the fallout from Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine continues, the consequences have spilt over into motorsport and Formula 1.

Major international events in Russia have already been called off, including the Russian Grand Prix.

The Haas team, which fields Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and is sponsored by his father’s company Uralkali, is in legal discussions this week over the fate of that title sponsorship deal – which could cost Mazepin his place in the team.

There are increasing sanctions being placed on Russian businesses and individuals since Putin first ordered Russian forces to invade Ukraine last Thursday.

After FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem wrote to the Ukraine motorsport federation president Leonid Kostyuchenko guaranteeing “my full support and the support of the FIA”, Kostyuchenko has responded by publishing a letter with a proposal on behalf of FAU members.

The FAU has asked the FIA to ban the holders of licenses issued by the RAF and the BAF (the Belarusian Automobile Federation) from taking part in competitions outside the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

Formula 1 2022: Barcelona February Testing

Mazepin would be impacted by this, so such action would guarantee he could not race in F1 this season.

The FAU has also asked the FIA to:

  • Ban the use of state symbols of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus – the aggressor countries – during FIA-organised and FIA-sanctioned competitions
  • To prohibit the holding of FIA-organised and FIA-sanctioned competitions in the territories of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus
  • To prohibit the holding of RAF (Russian Automobile Federation)-organised and RAF-sanctioned competitions in the occupied territories of Ukraine
  • To expel all the members of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus from the FIA
  • To expel all the members representing the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus from FIA commissions

This is a significant early test of new FIA president Ben Sulayem’s leadership and calls on motorsport’s authority to take specific action that other sports have been hesitant to take.

For example, while football’s governing body FIFA has moved to condemn the Russian invasion, its sanctions against Russia’s football team are purely symbolic – Russia is currently still allowed to play its FIFA World Cup play-off fixtures, it just has to do so under a different name, without using the Russian flag or the national anthem, and at a neutral venue.

This is similar to the action taken against Russia by the International Olympic Committee following a doping scandal that led to the country being stripped of dozens of medals but with its athletes being allowed to compete as ‘neutrals’.

A Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in 2020 later expanded this to stopping Russian athletes representing their country at world championships, which also affected Mazepin in his rookie F1 season as he raced under the flag of the Russian Automobile Federation.

But to all intents and purposes, these are trivial ‘sanctions’ – whereas what Ukraine has called for, has a real, tangible impact.

On Monday, the IOC issued a statement recommending “that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions”.

It said that although it did not want to “punish” athletes for their governments’ decisions, the war posed a problem because although Russian and Belarusian athletes would be able to continue to participate in events, many from Ukraine cannot “because of the attack on their country”.

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