Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Formula One’s governing body, has been asked by Ukraine’s motor racing federation to ban all Russian and Belarusian drivers amid the war against Ukraine.
The request calls into doubt Russian Nikita Mazepin’s driving for Haas in F1.
Earlier on Friday, Haas Formula One team said they haven’t yet decided whether Nikita Mazepin will race this year.
On Friday, F1 cancelled the race in Russia scheduled for September 25, saying it was “impossible” to race there given the situation after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Haas removed its sponsorship from Russian company Uralkali late Thursday and is running plain white cars on the final day of F1 pre-season testing in Barcelona. Haas not only receives significant funding from Uralkali but also fields a car for Mazepin.
Mazepin’s future and a decision on whether to continue with Uralkali as a sponsor will be addressed next week.
Mazepin tweeted Friday: “To my fans and followers — it’s a difficult time and I am not in control over a lot of what is being said and done. I’m choosing to focus on what I CAN control by working hard and doing my best for my @HaasF1Team. My deepest thanks for your understanding and support.”
Team principal Guenther Steiner said the 22-year-old driver, who did not attend media duties Thursday and Friday, has no guarantees.
“There are no guarantees anywhere. There are governments (involved) and I have no idea what is coming from that side,” Steiner said. “He puts a tough face on it. For sure it bothers him because it’s his own country.”
Steiner said the situation was very complex.
“It needs to be resolved. Not everything depends on us,” Steiner said, adding that “we need to see how the situation develops in Ukraine … There are legal issues we have to go through and then we see what’s coming out.”
Steiner added that Haas’ American team owner Gene Haas “stands behind the decision” to remove Uralkali sponsorship on the cars. They are typically red, white and blue with a livery that resembles the Russian flag.
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel said Thursday he would not race in Russia, and current champion Max Verstappen agreed with him but stopped short of saying he would skip the event.
Drivers widely welcomed the decision Friday, with Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris saying they would not have raced in Russia even if F1 had decided to go there.
“When I saw what Seb said yesterday, I completely supported him and found it the right move and something I would have taken to (F1 CEO) Stefano (Domenicali). Because we also have our say,” Gasly said. “I’m personally affected, having some people close to me who are in Ukraine. It’s a very difficult situation and very scary.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine drew other punitive measures in the sporting world, including UEFA stripping St. Petersburg of hosting the Champions League final on May 28 and replacing it with the Stade de France outside Paris.
(With inputs from Agencies)