On the eve of Formula One’s test in Bahrain, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) organized a photo opportunity on the circuit’s start-finish straight to show solidarity with Ukraine amid the country’s invasion by Russia. Four-time F1 world champion and GPDA director Sebastian Vettel has been a vocal opponent of the Russian invasion and stated that he would boycott the Russian Grand Prix when the race was still scheduled to take place.
Also, Vettel is using a unique “No War” helmet design for the Bahrain test. The design features the same “No War” logo used in the GPDA photoshoot, with a blue-yellow Ukrainian flag stripe replacing the German flag stripe on his helmet. Though, the collage of flags wrapped around the helmet’s bottom edge has sparked some controversy.
Within the collage of flags is the flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Northern Cyprus is a de facto country controlling the island’s northern third. Turkey is the only other country on the planet that recognizes Northern Cyprus as the United Nations Security Council declared the island republic’s independence invalid. Turkey had invaded the island in 1974 in response to a coup that aimed for Greece to annex Cyprus. Since the invasion, Turkey has maintained a presence on the island’s northern third and currently has over 17,000 soldiers stationed in the occupied territory.
The Cyprus Automobile Association submitted a complaint to the FIA demanding that Sebastian Vettel remove the flag from his helmet or fine Vettel and his team Aston Martin. The Aston Martin driver complied and removed the flag from his helmet. Vettel was asked by RaceFans about the issue, “I took the little sticker off because some people got upset, which I think fails the message – the message is that obviously the whole world should be united and is united, I think, to fight war. I think we grew up in times of peace and I think we appreciate peace a lot.”
Jens Munser Designs, the helmet’s designer, confirmed on social media that the flag collage graphic was a stock image acquired for the design and that each flag included wasn’t checked.