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How the Russia-Ukraine Conflict Can Affect F1

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Written by Hafiz Akbar, edited by Harshi Vashee

The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has signified that the country is in a state of war, with casualties numbering in the hundreds on both sides by the first day alone.

The global impact will most certainly be felt in general motorsports but in F1 in particular. What will the invasion of Ukraine mean for Russia’s standing within the F1 paddock?

1. Sanctions for Sponsors

The United States, along with its allied countries, has imposed strict sanctions on Russia with the expectation that it will stifle the Russian economy, and it did just that. Just before the sanctions hit, the Moscow stock exchange recorded a record low for the past four and a half years and with international sanctions on their way, there is no doubt that this is the tip of the iceberg for Russia’s economic downfall. Numbers of Russian companies have been put on the chopping block by President Biden’s upcoming sanctions, including financial (such as VTB Bank), tech, and trade (such as Uralkali) institutions as well as sanctions on oligarchs (such as Dmitry Mazepin, Nikita’s father), which is estimated to halve (or more) Russia’s economic power.

Haas has announced that they will finish the rest of winter testing with a plain white livery, signalling the team’s willingness to sever ties with Uralkali, undoubtedly on its foreseen exit from the sport. This also means that ROC driver, Nikita Mazepin will most likely be on his way out as well. Although Haas is losing a major title sponsor, Gene Haas, owner of the Haas F1 Team, has confirmed that the team isn’t as strapped for cash as initially thought, with legendary Dane, Kevin Magnussen reclaiming his seat in the team and possibly bringing in new sponsors to the team.

2. The Replacement of the Russian Grand Prix and (possibly) the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Sochi is located about 400 km from the Ukrainian border. This might seem far enough. But if we consider that in last year’s Diriyah e-Prix, a missile almost struck around the vicinity of the race track, the danger becomes quantifiable. With President Putin’s ambition of reuniting the former Soviet territories, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) International Relations analyst, Gilang Kembara, has stated to CNN Indonesia his concerns that Russia will continue on its merry way to claim older lost territories including the Balkans, part of Finland, and surrounding countries such as Azerbaijan. This might lead to a cancellation of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, taking place in Baku later this year, if the situation does not deescalate fast enough. Even if the Russian Grand Prix does not proceed to be cancelled, the lack of a title sponsor will surely do the trick. As previously mentioned, VTB Bank is amongst the companies that will suffer from the sanctions imposed on Russia and as such may not have the funding to continue sponsoring the grand prix.

As of the editing of this article, the Russian Grand Prix has been cancelled and has had its contract revoked, which means we’ll not be seeing Igora Drive for a while. Meanwhile, Haas F1 Team has severed sponsorship ties with Uralkali and Nikita Mazepin has been removed from his drive in Haas F1 Team. Nikita then went ahead and formed a foundation to facilitate Russian athletes unable to compete due to political reasons, creatively named “We Compete as One.”

In these uncertain times, we encourage all members of the Divebomb community to be mindful of others and to understand that what’s happening cannot be reduced to a single member of the crew, team, or driver within any branch of motorsports, who’s only here to race and to win. We express our condolences to those affected by the war and remind everyone that war has always brought death and destruction, never solutions.

(Source: Aljazeera, Reuters)

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