This morning, Haas F1 driver Nikita Mazepin — son of Dmitry Mazepin, who chairs the Russian fertilizer producer that sponsors the team — said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was ultimately of no significance to him, because he’s “a big supporter of sports without politics.” This was mere hours before sports and politics clashed in an entirely predictable way that has directly impacted Mazepin, because now his car has lost its biggest sponsor.
Haas announced it will run a stark white livery for Friday’s final test session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, devoid of Uralkali branding and the usual red and blue stripes, per Motorsport.com and The Race. While this decision so far only impacts tomorrow’s activity, if the current conflict drags on, it’s entirely likely that the VF-22 chassis will be left without its title sponsor and colors — the very colors of the Russian flag — for the start of the 2022 season in Bahrain next month.
Here were the team’s words, courtesy of Motorsport.com:
“Haas F1 Team will present its VF-22 in a plain white livery, minus Uralkali branding, for the third and final day of track running at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday 25 February,” the team said.
“Nikita Mazepin will drive as planned in the morning session with Mick Schumacher taking over in the afternoon.
“No further comment will be made at this time regarding team partner agreements.”
The article notes that the announcement was made on a letterhead that did not include the Uralkali logo. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called a meeting that included leaders of the state’s top businesses, many of which have been impacted by the European Union’s latest sanctions. Dmitry Mazepin was present, per the Kremlin-run news agency TASS.
Meanwhile, Nikita Mazepin and Haas team principal Guenther Steiner had been scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday, but that event was cancelled.
The Russian Grand Prix is on the 2022 schedule for September. A Formula 1 spokesperson told Sky Sports that while the race hasn’t been cancelled yet, the sport “will continue to monitor the situation very closely.” Sebastian Vettel has already announced his intention to boycott the race if it does continue, and reigning champion Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso have made it known that they’d prefer not to race in Sochi as well.
Reports indicate that UEFA is preparing to revoke this year’s Champions League final from St. Petersburg on Friday. It’s never a good look when international soccer does the obvious right thing before you, so F1 probably shouldn’t dilly-dally on this one.