No matter how many times we’ve had evidence to the contrary, racing drivers like Nikita Mazepin still insist that sports can exist without politics. In fact, that’s the Formula One driver’s current reasoning behind the fact that he still wants to race in Russia, despite the fact that the country has just invaded Ukraine to begin a new war.
The Haas F1 driver, who hails from Russia, was asked for his thoughts about the fate of the Russian Grand Prix during F1 testing at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya. He responded that he has “always been a big supporter of sports without politics,” which is why F1 should race in Russia.
The full quote is as follows, from Crash.net:
“From the understanding that we’ve had with Formula 1, and race is going ahead and you will surely see me there,” Mazepin said.
Despite the unrest involving his home country, Mazepin insisted that it’s not proving to be a distraction.
“I’m not struggling at all, because I’ve always been a big supporter of sports without politics,” he added.
“And today I’m in Barcelona, I cannot tell you the excitement of driving the new car and the excitement of actually being involved in developing this new car and actually from seeing the pictures for a year and then seeing it in physical carbon copy of the pictures is great.
“So I’m just very happy to be in Barcelona and I hope these three days are longer because it’s a nice experience.”
Mazepin’s sentiment is nice, but it’s totally detached from reality. Sports are often reflections of the political situation in a certain country — and that’s before you get into all the political wheelings and dealings that need to take place for an international sport like Formula One to make its way to any particular country. Think about all the local politics involved during the development of the Miami Grand Prix. Think about the “sportswashing” critiques that come when F1 races somewhere like Saudi Arabia. Think about the fact that musicians perform the local national anthem or host a flyover during the pre-race ceremonies.
Motorsport especially is rooted in a historical nationalism, as it was a competitive way to illustrate the technological might of one country over another. It is, inherently, political.
But then again, you might not think of racing as being an inherently political act when your dad is chummy with Vladimir Putin.