Bernie Ecclestone backs F1 decision to allow Russian drivers to race on

The FIA confirmed on Tuesday that Russian drivers will still be allowed to compete under a neutral flag

Philip Duncan
Wednesday 02 March 2022 13:17
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Bernie Ecclestone has backed F1’s decision to allow Russian drivers to continue competing (Tony Marshall/PA)
Bernie Ecclestone has backed F1’s decision to allow Russian drivers to continue competing (Tony Marshall/PA)

Bernie Ecclestone has supported Formula One’s decision not to outlaw Russian drivers.

The FIA announced on Tuesday that Russian drivers will still be allowed to compete in high-level motorsport, albeit under a neutral, flag clearing the way for Nikita Mazepin to be on the grid for F1’s season-opening race in Bahrain on 20 March.

Fifa and Uefa have suspended Russian teams from all international competition in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned by World Athletics.

But Ecclestone, 91,  in an interview with the PA news agency, backed the FIA’s stance on Russian drivers.

“It was absolutely the right decision by the FIA,” said Ecclestone, who ran F1 for four decades.

“There are so many things being agreed by the world about this conflict between Russian and Ukraine. But I don’t think anybody has really thought it through, or got their heads around it.

“If there is a Russian driver in F1, what does it have to do with Russia fighting a war? There is no relationship there.

“The Russian athletes have nothing to do with this conflict. They are not part of it, and they have never been part of it. They just happen to be Russian.”

Nikita Mazepin will still be allowed to race in Formula One this year (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Haas driver Mazepin’s immediate future still hangs in the balance. His father oligarch Dmitry Mazepin is a part-owner of Haas’ title sponsor, Uralkali.

The American-owned team removed the branding of the Russian fertiliser company for the final day of testing in Barcelona.

At last week’s test, F1 bosses also cancelled the Russian Grand Prix, due to be staged in Sochi on 25 September.

Ecclestone, who struck a lucrative deal with Putin to add the race to the schedule in 2014, continued: “The Formula One Group decided it was the right thing to do to cancel the race but whether that was the right thing to do I don’t know? There is no war in Russia.

“The FIA confirmed it was cancelled because the Formula One Group cancelled it. If nobody spoke about cancelling the race, I am sure the FIA wouldn’t have done anything.

“He [Putin] is probably not happy at all with what is happening, but with all these things going on, and him being branded a criminal and with the world against him, I don’t think he would care too much about a Formula One race.”

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