Vettel Will Not Race in Russia but Nikita Mazepin says Not to Mix Sports and Politics (Updated)

Vettel Will Not Race in Russia but Nikita Mazepin says Not to Mix Sports and Politics

TGR Staff - 02/24/2022

Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel says will not be on the grid if the Russian Grand Prix is not canceled after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Vettel has been the first driver to make a statement regarding the September race in Sochi, however, F1 and the Grand Prix Drivers Association have not made an announcement. 

At a press conference in Spain Vettel said “As GPDA we haven’t spoken on this subject so I can’t speak on behalf of the GPDA. In my personal opinion, obviously, I woke up again to this morning’s news and I was shocked. I don’t know. I think it’s horrible to see what is happening and obviously, if you look at the calendar we have a race scheduled in Russia." He went on to say, "But personally I’m just really shocked and sad to see what’s going on. We will see going forward, but I think my decision is already made.” 

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen also spoke out against hosting the race in Russia saying “when a country is at war, it is not right to race there.”

President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to undertake a "special military operation" which quickly escalated into a full-scale invasion. Leaders from around the world condemned Russia's action, as NATO bolstered its defenses and mobilized troops in Poland along the western border of Ukraine. Several nations have already imposed sanctions on Russia, Russian businesses, and individuals.

It is expected that Formula 1 will make a decision shortly, but as of now, they have only said they will "continue to monitor the situation very closely." In 2014, the Russian annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula did not stop Formula 1 from racing in Russia just eight months later, so all eyes are on F1 to see if the organization will follow in the steps of the Union of European Football Associations who announced they would be moving their championship finals from Russia. 

Haas driver Nikita Mazepin, Formula 1's only Russian driver, told Sky Sports that he expected the race to go ahead as scheduled saying, "You will surely see me there. I have always been a big supporter of sport without politics. Today I am in Barcelona. I cannot tell you the excitement of driving the new car and the excitement of actually being involved in the development of this new car, from seeing the pictures and then seeing it in physical, a carbon copy of the pictures is great."

The Haas F1 team pulled team principal Guenther Steiner out of the press conference in Barcelona, it is speculated that the sanctions will impact the Russian-backed F1 team in 2022. The team is also facing social media pressure to drop sponsor Uralkali due to their board members, Sergei Chemezov's and Dmitry Mazepin's ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the team's Russian flag-inspired livery.

At the time of this writing, the Hass team has not shared a statement on their site or social media regarding the invasion of Ukraine.

Update: Hass Racing issued a statement on Thursday night that they would be removing the Uralkali branding for their final day of testing in Barcelona. Auto Motor Und Sport reporter Tobi Grüner, shared photos of the team pulling the Uralkail decals from their transporter. 

“Haas F1 Team will present its VF-22 in a plain white livery, minus Uralkali branding, for the third and final day of track running at Circuit de Barcelona–Catalunya on Friday, Nikita Mazepin will drive as planned in the morning session with Mick Schumacher taking over in the afternoon. No further comment will be made at this time regarding team partner agreements.”

Update II: Formula 1 has announced they will cancel the 2022 Russian Grand Prix.