Formula 1 has confirmed it will not stage the scheduled Grand Prix in Sochi this year in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Military action has since intensified, prompting widespread condemnation and strong sanctions from the international community. There were also calls to cancel international sporting events in Russia, such as the UEFA Champions League final.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin responded to UK sanctions, banning British airlines from Russian airspace. A move that could have made logistics difficult for the mostly British based F1 teams had the race gone ahead.
F1 drivers voiced concern about racing in Sochi and Sebastian Vettel stated he would not race there. Russian backed team Haas took the step of removing from the car their title sponsor and livery which resembled the Russian flag. Instead, the team ran with a plain white car today for testing in Barcelona. The Russian oligarch who sponsors the team and whose son Nikita Mazipin is their driver has close ties to Vladimir Putin.
On Thursday night F1 held a meeting with all 10 teams and the FIA to discuss the evolving situation in Ukraine. Today, Formula 1 put out an official statement on the Russian Grand Prix:
“The FIA Formula 1 World Championship visits countries all over the world with a positive vision to unite people, bringing nations together,” a statement read.
“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 wording of the statement was ambiguous though, stating it is ‘impossible under the circumstances’. This takes the pressure of the sport while leaving the door open to return if circumstances change between now and September, however unlikely that may be.
This interpretation is supported by the Sochi race promoter, Rosgonki. Rosgonki stated, “Purchased tickets are not being annulled – there is no need to return them right now as the possibility still remains that the race will take place as previously scheduled.”