Formula 1 is testing in Barcelona this week as teams get to grips with their new machines. But after yesterday’s fairly uneventful day, which saw Lando Norris top the timings, the paddock has been rocked today by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine overnight. And now, with clouds of doubt surrounding this year’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Sebastian Vettel has said he will boycott the event if it takes place.
The Aston Martin F1 driver was speaking during a press conference in Barcelona. According to Motorsport.com, Vettel was asked about the future of the Russian Grand Prix and said “my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go.”
The four time world champion, who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, said he was “shocked” to see the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine.
Overnight, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine to undertake “special military operations.” The move was quickly condemned around the world, with US president Joe Biden saying that “the world will hold Russia accountable.”
Countries are taking steps to impose sanctions on Russian businesses, banks and high net worth individuals. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has also stripped the Russian city of St Petersburg of its right to host the Champions League Final and condemned Russia’s actions.
Now, eyes are on F1 to see how it will respond to the situation.
In today’s press conference in Barcelona, Vettel said: “I think it’s wrong to race in that country. I’m sorry for the people, innocent people who are losing their lives, getting killed for stupid reasons under a very strange and mad leadership.”
His strong words were echoed by reigning world champion Max Verstappen, who said that “when a country is at war, it is not right to race there.”
Of course, both drivers are right about this. Formula 1 should not race in Russia in 2022.
But of course, F1 should not have raced in Russia in 2014, when the country annexed Crimea. But it did, just eight months after Russian troops occupied the peninsula.
Now, with a Russian race on the calendar, a Russian driver on the grid and Russian sponsors in teams up and down the paddock, F1 needs to make its stance clear. The sport cannot continue claiming that “we race as one” when it will gladly wash over atrocities being committed by a global super power.
So far, the sport’s governing body has said it will “continue to monitor the situation very closely.”
An F1 statement read: “F1 is closely watching the very fluid developments like many others and at this time has no further comment on the race scheduled for September.”
As I find myself thinking a lot these days: F1, please do better.