The Formula 1 has confirmed it has canceled the Russian Grand Prix in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement released late on Friday night, the F1 said it was “watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock” and held extensive discussions before canceling the event.
“The FIA F1 World Championship visits countries all over the world with a positive vision to unite people, bringing nations together,” the statement read.
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“We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation.
“On Thursday [Friday AEDT] evening Formula 1, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.”
The Russian Grand Prix was due to be held in Sochi on September 25.
Meanwhile, Haas Formula One team boss Guenther Steiner confirmed that his team’s Russian racer Nikita Mazepin faces an uncertain future as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mazepin had been signed last year as part of a title sponsorship deal involving Russian potash producer Uralkali, owned by his billionaire father Dmitry Mazepin.
“Yeah, it needs to be resolved,” Steiner told reporters.
“As I said before, not everything depends from us here.
“There is more than the F1 team involved, there are governments involved, so I have no idea what is coming from that side.”
The cancellation comes after reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen and former champion Sebastian Vettel said on Friday it would be wrong for the Russian Grand Prix to go ahead.
Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, killing dozens of people in the early hours, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Four-time champion Vettel said he had been shocked to wake up to the news and the Aston Martin driver is adamant he will not compete in the September 25 race in Sochi.
“In my personal opinion, I woke up to this morning’s news, shocked, so I don’t know,” Vettel said at a press conference on the second day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
“I think it’s horrible to see what is happening.
“Obviously if you look at the calendar we have a race scheduled in Russia. For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in the country.”
Vettel, 34, said he was sure that there would be further discussions in the Formula One paddock.
“I’m sorry for the people, innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed for stupid reasons and a very, very strange and mad leadership,” said Vettel.
“I’m sure it’s something that we will talk about, but personally I’m just so shocked and sad to see what is going on.
“So we will see going forward, but I think my decision is already made.”
Reigning champion Verstappen said he was against competing there too.
“When a country is at war, it’s not right to run there, that’s for sure,” said Verstappen.
“But what matters is not what I think, it’s the whole paddock that will decide.”
PARIS TO HOST CL FINAL STRIPPED FROM SAINT PETERSBURG
In related news, Paris will host this season’s Champions League final after Saint Petersburg was stripped of the match due to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, UEFA announced on Friday.
The showpiece occasion of the European club season will be played at the Stade de France on Saturday, May 28, European football’s governing body said after holding an emergency meeting in response to the crisis.
“UEFA wishes to express its thanks and appreciation to French Republic President Emmanuel Macron for his personal support and commitment to have European club football’s most prestigious game moved to France at a time of unparalleled crisis,” a statement said.
The Russian government responded by calling the decision by UEFA “a shame”.
“It is a shame that such a decision was made,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Saint Petersburg could have provided the best possible conditions for holding this football event.” The final was supposed to be played at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg, which already hosted several matches at last year’s European Championship and at the 2018 World Cup held in Russia.
UEFA made no reference to its relationship with Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant that is a key sponsor of European football’s governing body.
It is the third year running in which UEFA has moved the Champions League final with the Covid-19 pandemic leading to the 2020 edition being switched from Istanbul to Lisbon, and then again from the Turkish city to Porto in Portugal last year.
The Stade de France, in Saint-Denis just to the north of the French capital, has hosted the Champions League final twice before, in 2000 when Real Madrid beat Valencia, and in 2006 when Barcelona defeated Arsenal.
With a capacity of 80,000, it was also the venue for the 1998 World Cup final and the final of Euro 2016.
Meanwhile, UEFA announced that Russian and Ukrainian clubs and national teams competing in international competitions must play home matches at neutral venues “until further notice”.
Spartak Moscow, in the Europa League, are the only club from either Russia or Ukraine still involved in European competition this season.
FIFA may now move to force Russia to play their World Cup qualifying play-off against Poland on March 24 on neutral ground.
On Thursday the Polish, Czech and Swedish football federations released a joint statement calling on FIFA to move upcoming World Cup qualifying play-off ties away from Russia.
Should Russia beat Poland, they would then host the Czech Republic or Sweden five days later to decide who qualifies for the World Cup in Qatar.
UEFA also said it would work to help football players in Ukraine get out of the country as the war intensifies.
“Together with the French government, UEFA will fully support multi-stakeholder efforts to ensure the provision of rescue for football players and their families in Ukraine who face dire human suffering, destruction and displacement,” it said.
The Ukrainian league, which was due to resume this weekend after its long winter shutdown, has been suspended.
Global players union FIFPro said in a statement that it was “currently seeking assurances and support from the international football bodies to protect professional players in the country.”