The Russian Grand Prix scheduled for September 25 has been cancelled in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the sport’s owners Formula One announced on Friday.
F1 were reacting to Russian President Vladimir Putin defying Western warnings to unleash a full-scale invasion on Thursday that quickly claimed dozens of lives and displaced at least 100,000 people.
Fighting has gone into a second day with Ukrainian forces fighting off Russian invaders in the streets of the capital Kyiv.
“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,” read the Formula One statement.
“We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.”
Their rapid action over the race comes after defending world champion Max Verstappen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel had publicly declared at testing in Barcelona their opposition to driving in the race.
Red Bull driver Verstappen said: “When a country is at war, it’s not right to run there,” whilst Vettel was more forthright.
“For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country,” said the 34-year-old German Aston Martin driver.
“I’m sorry for the people, innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed for stupid reasons and a very, very strange and mad leadership.”
American Formula 1 team Haas, which have a Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, showed their distaste for the invasion by announcing their cars will not sport the Russian colours of its title sponsor Uralkali during the last day of pre-season testing on Friday.
Haas whose cars usually sport the blue, white and red colours of the Russian flag, “will present its VF-22 in a plain white livery, without the Uralkali branding, for the third and final day of testing” in Catalonia, the team said in a statement.
Team principal Guenther Steiner, who maintained that the team was “financially OK”, said a decision would be announced next week on the future of Haas’s long-term collaboration with Uralkali.
The future of Mazepin, whose father Dmitry Mazepin is the non-executive director of Uralkali and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is also in question.
Steiner acknowledges that the 22-year-old’s career with the team “must be resolved” but said “it’s not all up to us”.
“There are governments involved and I have no power over that,” said Steiner. “We have to see how the situation develops.”
Mazepin, who was due to drive during Friday’s morning session, made no comment on the war in Ukraine in a tweet he made to his “fans and followers” on Friday.
“It’s a difficult time and I am not in control over a lot of what is being said and done,” he tweeted. “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.”
This was due to be the last Russian Grand Prix in Sochi which has hosted the race since 2014. Next year it is due to move to Saint Petersburg.