Sebastian Vettel said Thursday he will not race in the Russian Grand Prix following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and the Haas F1 team removed the logos of its Russian sponsor from its cars.
Formula One is in Barcelona this week for preseason testing and Vettel, the four time champion, said he woke up “shocked” by the news that President Vladimir Putin had launched a military operation against neighboring Ukraine.
“Obviously if you look at the calendar we have a race scheduled in Russia. My own opinion is I should not go, I will not go,” Vettel said. "I think it’s wrong to race in the country. I’m sorry for the innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed (for) stupid reasons and a very strange and mad leadership.”
The Russian Grand Prix is scheduled for Sept. 25, and F1 said Thursday it is “closely watching the very fluid developments.” F1 team principals planned to meet Thursday night to discuss the situation.
“My wish is that somehow everything will stop very soon. We will have a meeting between us tonight, try to understand and how to cope and how to manage with it,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said. “A deep discussion (to) understand all the implications and the right choice for the future.”
But the Russian invasion on Ukraine had immediate repercussions in the F1 paddock.
Haas said late Thursday it will remove its sponsorship from Russian company Uralkali and run plain white cars on the final day of testing. Haas not only receives significant funding from Uralkali but also fields a car for Russian driver Nikita Mazepin.
The Haas cars are typically red, white and blue with a livery that resembles the Russian flag. Haas said Mazepin is still slated to drive Friday morning.
“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," the team said.
Mazepin and Haas team principal Gunther Steiner both canceled media appearances Thursday.
Vettel, meanwhile, is head of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, but he said racing in Russia later this year has yet to be broached.
“I’m sure it’s something we’ll talk about,” the Aston Martin driver said. “But personally I’m shocked and sad to see what’s going on, so we will see going forward but I think my decision is already made."
World champion Max Verstappen agreed with Vettel but stopped short of saying he'd pull out.
“I think when a country is at war it's not correct to race there, that's for sure,” Verstappen said. “But it's not only what I think, it's the whole paddock (that is) going to decide what we are going to do next.”
Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso said: “We can make our own decisions for sure but eventually I think Formula One will do the best (thing).”
Williams CEO Jost Capito urged F1 to choose wisely.
“It's a very sad situation and our thoughts are with the people who are involved,” he said. “We think about the performance of our cars where other people are scared to lose their lives. We have to have this in mind and we're all aligned on this ... (F1) will take a proper and a right decision for all of us.”
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