The IOC’s stance caused quite a lot of noise in defence of the drivers, calling them innocent and saying it is unfair that they are punished for a war they play no part in. I agree with those statements to an extent, it would be unfair on them, but if we’re talking about what’s fair and unfair, developments in Ukraine don’t really leave much up for discussion in my view.
Truly unfair is children being killed by missile attacks as Russia’s invasion continues, and people saying goodbye to their families as many flee to try and seek refuge in other countries, while certain members stay behind to fight for their country’s independence. An independence that was meant to have been protected.
Some racing drivers and teams not being allowed to compete until peace is restored pales into insignificance against that backdrop.
Too much focus from a Formula 1 perspective has been place on Nikita Mazepin and his situation at Haas. Given his questionable background in terms of off-track behaviour, it’s clear that overwhelming sentiment is for him to lose his seat, but not strictly because of the actual situation at present.
His father’s links to Putin play a big part, of course, but it’s clearly not the only thing because of the way other Russian drivers are being defended by some quarters. Daniil Kvyat split opinion with his statement yesterday saying it is “an unfair solution” to ban Russian drivers, with many stating he shouldn’t be punished as he has nothing to do with the war. But his rise through the motor sport ranks saw him backed for a spell by Lukoil – sanctioned in 2014 amid the earlier Ukraine conflict, and also accused of helping finance Kremlin-backed separatists waging war against the eastern Donbas region at the time.
Robert Shwartzman? Backed by Russian motor sport development program SMP Racing that was created by Boris Rotenberg – a close Putin ally who was sanctioned last month. Kvyat also carried SMP Racing logos on his Formula 3 car for a spell.
Of course these drivers have nothing personally to do with the invasion, and they just want to be allowed to race, but their ascent to the world stage in motor sport has been funded by a country that the world is trying to stop through means other than military warfare.
The FIA had a chance to really stand up for what is right. Innocent people dying and existing freedoms being threatened overshadow the financial impact on motor sport. Do the wrong thing now and the financial impact will be much greater in the long run, as well as the human impact being significant too.
Instead, the FIA showed a not unsurprising lack of backbone, pointing to other sports as an example and saying the “FIA is acting like FIFA, ITF, UCI – we ban national teams not athletes in foreign teams”.
Ah yes, all of those Russian national teams that compete in Formula 1, WEC, WRC and Formula E. That’s going to hit hard. Essentially, the FIA passed the buck to the individual teams and national federations.