Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Nikita Mazepin rules out neutral flag racing to ensure F1 return

Sacked Russian driver Nikita Mazepin insists he will not race under a neutral flag to help secure a return to Formula 1.

US F1 team Haas terminated Mazepin’s contract in March after Russia invaded Ukraine and also removed Russian sponsors Uralkali from their car and team kit.

The Russian fertilizer company is partly owned by Mazepin’s father, oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, who is an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mazepin was set to play his second season in Formula 1 before being sacked and the FIA ​​has since announced that Russian drivers can enter FIA-sanctioned competitions if they race under a neutral flag and distance themselves from the competition. Russia.

However, the 23-year-old said Sports R the news agency that he does not want to do so, leaving his career shrouded in uncertainty.

“People cannot be condemned,” he said. “We are athletes and everyone has their own choices, which must be respected.”

Junior Ferrari driver Robert Shwartzman and Konstantin Zhiltsov, a Dakar Rally driver, have indeed adopted a different flag to compete in, but Mazepin is strongly opposed to such action.

Mazepin has been included in an EU sanctions list along with his father, Dmitry, who described the European Union’s official gazette as a member of Putin’s closest circle.

“Jiltsov is not the only one, Robert Shwartzman did the same – it’s a matter of personal considerations,” he added.

“Whether you want to give up your country for sport and whether it is more important to you or not, everyone chooses for themselves. But I don’t want to do it.”

In April, Italy seized €105m (£88m) worth of property belonging to Mazepin and his oligarch father as part of wider efforts to penalize wealthy Russians linked to Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.

Mazepin was replaced by Kevin Magnussen as Mick Schumacher’s teammate just nine days after the invasion of Russia and shortly after he told the BBC that “cancel culture against his country” was to blame for his dismissal.

“I don’t agree with being in sanctions – I said that before I agreed to fight him,” he said.

“Maybe it’s not the right time. If you look at the whole situation happening against the athletes in the general case, it’s nullifying the culture against my country.”

Mazepin – who scored no points in his first season in Formula 1 – announced in June that a personal lawsuit against Haas over alleged unpaid wages was in full swing, with hearings to be held in Switzerland in the coming months. .

F1 had the Russian Grand Prix on its original 2022 calendar – with the race in Sochi due to be held at the end of this week – but the Grand Prix contract was terminated shortly after the war started.

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