The Formula 1 statement regarding the Russian Grand Prix is welcome, given what is happening in Ukraine. There is a strong feeling around the world that Russia must pay for the actions of its leader Vladimir Putin. This is only to be expected given what has been done – and continues to be done as each hour passes.
Russia is no longer welcome at the table. It is a sad situation but the country has – to a large extent – allowed its leader to do what he has done and if it wants to be allowed back into the international community, Russians must get together and get rid of Putin and his cronies. That is easy to write but hard to achieve because Putin does have widespread support at home, where the state media is constantly pumping him up.
Of course, we need to be aware that there is propaganda on both sides of every fight, but it is clear that the general view is that the attack on Ukraine is an unacceptable act.
The F1 statement does not actually say that the Russian GP is cancelled. It says that “it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances”. In legal terms, this is not a cancellation. It leaves the question open, while at the same time, making the point that those involved in the sport do not want the race to happen. But these things are never easy because contracts exist and perhaps the wording in the contract does not cover the situation of a country attacking another.
There is no doubt that there will be clauses relating to force majeure and such matters, but whether this covers a war that does not happen around the race track is something that probably needs discussing. And, inevitably, everyone wants to avoid a situation in which a contract has been broken. So, for the moment, the situation is that there will not be a Russian GP, but if circumstances change in the next few months then the race could still happen. This is not likely to be the case, as things stand, but the race is not scheduled until September and we don’t know what will happen between now and then. So we should not expect any quick replacement announcement.
The Haas team has said that it is looking into legal issues relating to its Uralkali sponsorship and the future of Nikita Mazepin in the team, probably for similar reasons. Perhaps no-one wants to continue those relationships but breaking them off requires suitable settlements. One cannot just stop contracts unless there are clauses covering such eventualities and the idea of a war breaking in Europe simply did not exist when these deals were done.
It is far-fetched to suggest that there will be a situation in which the race will happen in 2022 (and even for years after that) but there does need to be a proper settlement.