Formula One cancels 2022 Russian Grand Prix

3 minute read

Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 26, 2021 General view as the winners trophy is displayed before the race Pool via REUTERS/Yuri Kochetkov/File Photo

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  • F1 says impossible to race in Russia in current circumstances
  • Cancellation shortens calendar to 22 races

Feb 25 (Reuters) - Formula One on Friday said it will not race in Russia this season, saying it was "impossible" to do so after the country invaded neighbouring Ukraine.

The race was scheduled for Sept. 25 at Sochi's Olympic park, but will now be dropped from the calendar for the first time since it debuted in 2014.

"We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation," the sport said in a statement.

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"On Thursday evening Formula One, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is ... that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances."

Formula One drivers backed the sport's call.

"I'm also personally affected, having some people close to me who are in Ukraine right now," Frenchman Pierre Gasly said in a news conference on the final day of the Barcelona pre-season test.

"Personally, I would have found it very difficult to catch a plane and land in a country that is at war," added Ferrari's Spaniard Carlos Sainz.

F1's decision was announced shortly after UEFA said it had moved the Champions League final from from St Petersburg to Paris.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel told reporters on Thursday he would not race in Russia even if the race went ahead. Reigning champion Max Verstappen said it was "not correct" to race in a country at war.

On Friday Mercedes new recruit George Russell said the drivers had been united in their stand.

"Fortunately the guys at the helm of F1 and the FIA came to a conclusion very quickly so we didn't have to make any difficult decisions," he added.

Nikita Mazepin is the sole Russian driver on the sport's grid.

His U.S.-owned Haas team ran their car in Barcelona testing on Friday in an all-white livery, having taken off all branding representing title sponsor and Russian potash producer Uralkali, which is owned by his father.

Team principal Guenther Steiner acknowledged the Russian faces an uncertain future.

Mazepin withdrew from a news conference appearance on Friday but in a Twitter post said, "It's a difficult time and I am not in control over a lot of what is being said and done.

"I am choosing to focus on what I CAN control by working hard and doing my best for my (team)."

The cancellation of the Russian race pares a record 23-race calendar down to 22 races.

But the sport, which pulled off 17 races in the pandemic-hit 2020 season and 22 races last year, has options for a replacement after a number of venues acted as COVID-19 stand-ins over the last two seasons.

The Russian race, which was set to move to a new track outside St Petersburg from its current Sochi Olympic park venue next year, has been attended by President Vladimir Putin in the past, with the Russian leader even handing out trophies on the podium.

The title sponsor of the race is the VTB Group whose VTB Bank was hit with sanctions by the United States and Britain following the Russian invasion.

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Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Jon Boyle and Christian Radnedge

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