Why the FIA has made a mistake…

Let us, first of all, put things into a proper perspective: motor sport is not ultimately important. It’s a game for wealthy people and while millions love to watch and enjoy the sport, and it supports an impressive industry, it really doesn’t matter. It is irrelevant in time of war.

In major international conflicts in the past motor racing has simply stopped. In 1940 Italy hosted the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio, the latter taking place after the Nazi invasion of France had started but before Italy entered the war on June 10 that year. The Indy 500 took place in 1940 and 1941 before the United States joined the war in December 1941.

Thankfully nothing has escalated into a global war since 1939. People don’t want to live through that again. Of course, as time passes those who experienced World War II have died. Education is important in this respect to remind people what not to do, and to avoid the world going through such traumas again. In the UK, people wear poppies in November to remember World War I and most people know the words: “they shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them”.

The same should be true in Russia, which suffered more than any other country in World War II, with military casualties five times those of the Allies. In the light of this, Russia’s attack on Ukraine is quite difficult to understand. If anyone should know about the awfulness of war, it is the Russians…

Today bombs were dropping on an area of Kyiv called Babyn Yar. It was in this place that in 1941 the Nazis murdered more than 33,770 Jews in just two days.

This did not escape Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “What is the point of saying ‘Never again’ for 80 years if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on Babyn Yar?” he asked.

A lot has happened in the last few days, not just in Ukraine but all across the world. A tidal wave of sanctions of all kinds have been declared against Russia, or perhaps one should say against President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. It is clear that some Russians oppose what he is doing and many have been arrested for protesting against his actions, but it seems that the majority is silent, whether this means they support him is hard to judge.

Many Russians seem to believe what their media tells them (the same is true in the West), but I do recommend that people read TASS and other Russian news in order to understand what the people are being told over there. It is fascinating. Just to give an example, on February 6 Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy said that the speculation of Western countries about how many days Kiev could last in a potential Russian invasion was “madness and scaremongering” while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov castigated critics saying that “Russia poses no threat to anyone.”

Russian people are not fools and many will see what we can see. Maybe they wonder if Putin’s attack on Ukraine is to snuff out a country that may have its faults but was beginning to look how Russia might one day look if left alone to develop as a European nation.

Putin sold the invasion of Crimea as saving the region from extremists in Ukraine. It worked and it boosted his popularity at home. But since then the support has waned again. Opposition has been growing. Trying to convince Russians that the attack on Ukraine is defending the Motherland from an aggressive West is going to be a tough thing to sell. The West is proving that it does not need to use tanks and guns as money and culture can do the job.

The impact of sanctions has been dramatic, with the collapse of the rouble, much of the Central Bank’s reserves frozen, the mandatory sale of foreign currencies for Russian firms, a massive hike in interest rates and the closure of the Moscow Exchange until March 5 to protect share prices (or at least to delay the inevitable). Russian companies listed elsewhere have been hammered. It is reckoned that £430 billion has been wiped off the value of Russian companies listed in London. Sberbank’s share price has lost 95 percent of its value in recent days.

International brands are giving up on their Russian investments. Even if Putin stops the invasion (which is unlikely), the damage is done. The future will not be like the past. Russia is no longer a member of the international community.

It is all unprecedented stuff. Putin’s actions have caused Sweden, a country that has traditionally been neutral, to decide to send thousands of weapons and $50 million in funding to the Ukrainian military. By the same token, Switzerland, for which neutrality has always been one of the primary principles of the nation, has decided to adopt sanctions that the European Union has imposed on Russia.

“We are in an extraordinary situation,” the country’s President Ignazio Cassis said.

Not even Hitler caused the Swiss and the Swedes to abandon their neutrality and take action. That is an indication of the sense of outrage and indignation that Putin has caused. He cannot have imagined that this was going to happen, or else he would not have done it. 

All Putin can now do is to try to crush Ukraine – the Russian army has not done very well thus far – and then figure out how to rule what will be a very broken Russia after the fighting is over. One cannot help but wonder whether whatever now happens, his days in power are numbered. 

Russia is being cut adrift. It is not just political and economic, it’s cultural as well. Yes, there are a few countries where Russian might still be welcomed in the future, but high living on the Cote d’Azur is a thing of the past. In future the buskers in Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat will no longer be playing balalaikas…

With what one might term “a cultural war” taking place, the FIA has given the impression that it is out of step with the rest of the world. The first article of the FIA Statutes states that the federation “shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect”, but these were statutes that were written at a time when no-one could imagine another ground war in Europe.

At the same time the FIA likes to boast that it has full recognition status from the International Olympic Committee (achieved in 2013), in accordance with the sporting and governance standards of the Olympic Charter. The FIA says that “wholeheartedly embraces the Olympic spirit and shares the Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship, believing that sport should be accessible, fair and enjoyable for all”, but the FIA decision regarding Russia is out of step with the IOC, which said that banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing will “protect the integrity of global sports competitions”.

The FIA World Council’s decision has been widely criticised and it is clear that not all the member clubs (nor indeed by all the members of the World Council) agree with the decision made.

Motorsport UK, the British ASN, which is represented on the World Council by David Richards, has announced that Russian and Belarusian license holders are banned from racing in the UK. It will be interesting to see if other FIA clubs follow suit, a couple already have.

“We stand united with the people of Ukraine and the motorsport community following the invasion and the unacceptable actions that have unfolded,” David Richards said. “This is a time for the international motorsport community to act and show support for the people of Ukraine and our colleagues at the Federation Automobile of Ukraine (FAU).”

For the world today,  the FIA’s “sadness and shock” is not enough.

Why is there such a reaction around the world? That is a question that will probably be explained in time by social historians, but it is probably down to the fact that for nearly 77 years the Europe continent has been at peace. The Cold War was stressful in many respects but in that era the Soviets did not step over of line in Europe. They kept to their own territories and did not dare to venture beyond. We were afraid of what they might do, they were afraid of what we might do. It worked. Mutually-assured destruction made everyone think twice.

Putin was forged in that era. He joined the KGB after leaving university in the mid-1970s and was trained to be a foreign intelligence officer. In the late 1980s he was based in Dresden in the old East Germany when the Soviet empire fell apart. It was a time of upheaval and humiliation for Russia. Putin went home, climbed up through the ranks and became president on December 31 1999. It was clear from his speeches that he believed the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the Twentieth Century”.

Many disagree with that assessment. Many may have feared that over time Putin would do his best to rebuild the old Soviet bloc, but whatever means were possible, including supporting pro-Russian governments in countries that used to be in the Soviet Union, but Russia was weak, a shadow of its former shadow. However in 2014 Putin felt strong enough to invade Crimea. This met with sanctions, but they did not knock him out. He realised that if he was going to try again, he had to be better prepared. This time he was, but invading Ukraine did not meet with the same reaction. He has miscalculated massively.

The reality of the world today is way more complicated than one might think from the propaganda going on. Russia is not trying to conquer the world (it cannot afford to even think about that) and nor is the West trying to destroy Russia. The West wants to do business with Russians. Entrepreneurial Russians want to do business with the West. But the authoritarian leadership, a mega-wealthy elite that wants economic stability, a society that has got used to Western culture – at least in the big cities – and an opposition that will grow the more it is suppressed, means that Russia is a paradoxical place and who knows what might happen next?

The global reaction is not an attack on Russia. It is an attack on Putin. It aims to expose him and let the Russian people decide to do something else. It is a sign that the world has changed and people don’t want to fight wars any longer. They don’t want to see any more generations wiped out. The war to end all wars did not end wars – and that was 100 years ago.

Today the world has sufficient problems with the future for other reasons that should concern us all.

Time will tell if Putin has a future, but one thing is clear: in the small irrelevant part of the world that is motorsport, the FIA needs to get a little more attuned to how the world is today and not rely on outdated statutes, or whatever it was that caused the World Council to make the wrong decision.

Dany Kvyat is right that it is not fair on Russian competitors – and I feel for him – but nor it is fair that Russia thinks it can march into Ukraine and do what it is now doing there.

111 thoughts on “Why the FIA has made a mistake…

  1. Hi Joe. Thanks for the post. Are we effectively saying that all Russian citizens employed in ‘western’ countries but let’s say the EU, UK and USA should lose their jobs? Isn’t that the same as banning a driver because he/she are Russian? Happy to see Mazepin out of F1 but that’s another matter. Apparently only sports people should be banned. Not coders, fashion models etc etc ??

    1. If the employee you refer to is state-sponsored or enjoys and advertises in their social media feed that they are close to and/or thankful to Putin for helping them get where they are, then sure, let them lose their position. The point of sanctions is to pressure the recipient of those sanctions. If Mazepin loses his ride, then perhaps he can go back to Putin and be clear about why that was so. The average Russian citizen that immigrated to another country and is working to put food on their table is a different matter.

  2. “motor sport is not ultimately important”…but important enough to give a one time WDC holder (notice I didn’t say winner) a new $53M contract.

  3. It is not fair that Putin thinks he can invade an independent country and kill people who are defending their homes.
    This is beyond sport and what is fair. It is war.

    Let us not forget the sportsmen and women who never had the chance to compete because they volunteered or were conscripted to fight the evil in the world. That wasn’t fair, but they served.

    Lets not forget about the Jewish and other minority sportsman who were shipped off to be murdered in concentration camps. That wasn’t fair.

    We need the sanctions to make it so uncomfortable for all life in Russia that there is change.

    Enough of this talk of what is fair.

  4. Excellent analysis. Surprising the FIA is so out of step, especially after the IOC, FIFA and UEFA pronouncements.

  5. One can but hope that future historians get the chance to analyze the events of these days, see us for the hopeless optimists that we were and offer their theories on how their past could have been gone differently, if only…

  6. Fabulous writing Joe. So concise, brilliantly well laid out and factual, but with consideration of the different viewpoints.

    There’s what seems to be blatant propaganda from both extremes as expected (yes even on the BBC), but it’s so obvious that it saddens me that people get taken in by it.

    I hope that most people also take the meaning that Russians need to be excluded as much as possible in the right way – not to force a form of racism on them, but to make a very clear message that their President’s behaviour is not acceptable. I think Kyvat’s comments were more about what he didn’t say – he didn’t condemn his President’s actions – just wanted peace. Sorry Danil, that’s not enough.

    My wish is for another Velvet Revolution, but in Russia this time. Sadly the repression of protests means it’s unlikely to be so relatively blood free. He will not go quietly, and I can’t see him meekly giving up.

    Still seems surreal that one man can wield so much misguided power.

  7. Brilliant writing Joe; I don’t always agree with everything you say but I think you’re entirely right in this.

    1. I’ll second that comment. Good essay, without opening the other doors of Global Warming etc. I can say that I was taken aback by the weak response from the FIA. Shame on them.

  8. Very well written Joe.
    The actual “Russian” deaths during WW2 were probably in the region of 20 million, the majority due to the obduracy of dear Joe Stalin, who had no respect for human life and using Beria eliminated all opposition, which equally “won” the war. Stalin and his successors used this appalling figure as justification for their subsequent actions.
    Gorbachov and the drunken Yeltsin lulled the rest of the world into believing the leopard had changed its spots. Putin, a street fighter, has been responsible for mending the very broken economy but has always had his eyes on a bigger horizon. The Russian people, particularly the younger ones, are as pleasant as you could hope for but are fed a diet of corrupt information and, as you say, we believe our own nonsense much more than we should. The “Beria” factor has also been significantly resurrected.
    Whilst hugely better than 20 years ago the Russian economy is still relatively small, about No 11 in the world, and even without all of the sanctions applied by the rest of the world cannot sustain a war of any substance.
    Very difficult to know where that leaves everything. The poor Ukrainians, with huge courage and stoicism but not well prepared, have thus far blunted the worst that Russia could do which must have been ultimately reduced by all of the showing off for the last several weeks.
    Putin is now totally unpredictable and has surrounded himself with a like minded malign clique. Anything, however small, that the rest of the world can sensibly do to hinder the Russian military or to hasten Putin’s demise must be done.
    The FIA and its misguided new President must quickly repair their impotency as must the IPC or any other such organisation. No Russian/Belorussian athlete should be allowed to compete anywhere. A whole country and thousands of lives depend upon immediate action.

  9. I’ve read a lot (too much for my own good, probably) about the invasion over the past week but this is by far the most eloquent and well rounded piece of writing I have encountered. Thank you Joe.

  10. Well said Joe. F1 is the sideshow to the main event here but clearly doesn’t realise its role.

    You’ve summarised some delicate and provocative topics in a calm and collected manner that certainly made this reader reflect on their views.

    Thank you.

  11. Perhaps the FIA needs to be told that they are out of step with the global majority by actual motorsports fans voting with their wallets, i.e. no longer supporting the sport either via tickets, viewer subscriptions, or merchandise sales. Instead, each purchase could be replaced with a note to the vendor as to why the transaction did not occur. If motorsport fans continue to patronize the “business”, then there is no message to the contrary.

  12. On the money, Joe. Well done.

    I have been a serious motorsports fan (and occasional participant) for close to 60 years. I’ve also been a dyed in the wool history guy for at least as long.

    I have a core belief that sport should be apolitical; a pastime that rises above the issues. It should bring us together rather moving us apart. I don’t like the helmets and shirts that display people’s personal agendas.

    With that said, there are limits.

    Hitler’s Germany invaded the Rhineland in March 1936; yet the Olympic Games still showed up in Berlin five months later. And from there…

    If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what does.

    Now we have Putin’s Russia on the march. The time is now to tell this quasi-dictator, “NO!”

    I thought Mohammed ben Sulayem would be an able leader, but his administration is now two for two with really bad calls.


  13. Have you read Ian Kershaw’s The End? If not I thoroughly recommend it. A wonderful expose on how totalitarianism has the ability to control and subdue its citizens even in the most dark and extreme of times.

    1. It was mentioned on tv the other day that Putin is addicted to steroids, which when of the wrong type or wrong strength can cause an aggressive personality to develop in all sorts of normally calm people.

      The problem in removing Putin from power is that it also needs his immediate protection to disappear first or at the same time, an assassination (which is now being called for by the Americans) would be insufficient. (Though a drop of Novichok would be poetic) No it needs a putsch to clear out all the regime leaders.

  14. I hope the FIA’s constituent ASNs will now one by one ban Russian drivers, as have Motorsport UK. There are few, if any, who are not beneficiaries of Putin’s circle of toadying kleptocrats.

  15. Joe, a correction: “The same should be true in Russia, which suffered more than any other country in World War II” 14M Russians died in WW2. However, more people died in China, 20M. Also Ukraine is third on this list at 7M, followed by Poland, despite both these countries having a MUCH lower population. Also, like in Poland, a great number of those people were killed by Stalin, not Hitler. Yet somehow the numbers for former soviet countries often get passed on as the numbers for Russia, which is very far from correct, especially as some of those people were killed by Russian soldiers. Also, even before WW2 Stalin’s deliberate actions led to the death by famine of 3.5M Ukrainians. Opinions vary as to whether this was deliberate genocide, but Stalin did not tolerate famine in his own people. Obviously, I don’t want to diminish Russian suffering in WW2, which was massive, but other countries suffered more, both in absolute terms, and overwhelmingly so as a proportion of their population. Also, all these numbers in millions, when to anyone personally affected, one is a very big number indeed. If Russia ever does get back on to the calendar, F1 journalists may be wondering about about their future visas. So as always, thank you for speaking out so frankly and clearly on this and many other topics. As always, your honesty is much appreciated.

  16. Excellent analysis as always, Joe. Thank you.

    The FIA as well as many other governments, organizations, and people in the modern age have forgotten the fact that actions taken by whatever entity have(or used to have) consequences. Russia invading Ukraine has consequences and the FIA is try to condemn them but then avoid any consequences to the aggressor’s. With out consequences there is no reason for a change of behavior, and the FIA through its lack of action is tacitly condoning such behavior which is patently wrong. A seriously tone deaf and incorrect move on their part, which should in fact have consequences in their hierarchy. But unfortunately I won’t be holding my breathe waiting for that to happen.

    I encourage all to contact the FIA and show them your lack of support for their glaring mistake.

  17. “Russia is a paradoxical place and who knows what might happen next?”

    That statement pretty much encapsulates everything on the surface, as well as in between the lines that can be said of this entire situation. There is no question that Russia is a loose cannon.

    Ernest Hemingway stated that there are only three true sports in the world, Auto Racing, Bull Fighting, and Mountaineering. None of these are games and you don’t play them.

    The fact is, Auto Racing is a sport, and sports of any kind take a back seat to war. First and foremost, It’s entertainment.

    Regarding the FIA, between the Masi affair taking two months to conclude, when it should have taken a week, or so, and now with the decision to allow Russian and Belarusians to drive under a neutral flag, is flat out, insane. The governing body’s credibility is beyond comprehension, or logic, for that matter.

    Without question, it’s a complete farce. The way it’s playing out appears to be like The Three Stooges are running the show at 8 Place de la Concorde. When does the pie fight start? It’s a complete farce. The art of a joke is timing. Right now is no time for a joke. Again, their governorship has virtually no credibility at this point.

    The issue here being that Russia has invaded The Ukraine, starting a war and lives are being lost. This is a heinous crime, yet the FIA is merely patting Russian and Belarusian drivers on the back, saying everything is fine. It’s not. The Ukraine is Putin’s Czechoslovakia. What’s next? Armenia? Georgia? And the FIA is awarding Russian and Belarusian drivers? It’s not the question “Are they nuts?”, it’s a statement “They’ve completely lost their minds”

    The FIA is in a no-confidence state with the Masi warmup, followed by their coup de grâce, granted a couple of days ago. They really need to go.

    Thank you, Joe. Excellent piece.

    1. “What’s next? Armenia? Georgia?”

      According to my Sinister Agents, Moldova in general and the Transnistria region in particular. The latter has had a Russian military presence since 1992. After that, who knows? There is a school of thought that says a big chunk of real estate on the Baltic would make a nice addition to Vladolf’s property portfolio. And with all three Baltic states being members of both the EU and NATO that would be unlikely to end well.

  18. For the avoidance of doubt, the FIA decision to allow Russian drivers to race this season is to ensure that Russian money can continue to flow into race teams, e.g., Haas, G-Drive.
    It’s disgraceful.
    The FIA, Formula One Group (IOC, etc.) have no integrity or principles, other than a commitment to the financials. A boycott of this season is warranted.

      1. While this is (only) my strong hypothesis, it is self-evident. What is an alternative hypothesis for why the FIA is not banning Russian drivers?

        1. The problem is your hypothesis falls apart when you consider that sanctions against Russian companies will prevent any western company from doing business with them. Not to mention there is no way to transfer money anymore for Russian companies.

          There is no way Haas will be allowed to keep Uralkali sponsorship and money even if Mazepin were allowed to drive.

          1. Based on your forecast it’s not “my hypothesis” that will fall apart, rather it’s the FIA’s strategy to retain the flow of corrupt Russian funds that will fall apart

            1. A single day later…. And all the wind has been taken out of the sails of your “Hypothesis” superyacht. Uralkali gone, Mazepin gone… Prepared to re-assess your thinking?

  19. Apart from the obvious concerns about how far Putin will go to “win” this war, I have grave misgivings about the certainty of Russia’s future isolation.
    If China and India don’t get on board with the sanctioning, there is the possibility that 3 of the world’s biggest populations will create an irresistible market force.
    No idea what India’s motive might be, but not difficult to see why China wouldn’t mind the power of Europe and the USA taken down a few pegs.

    By God, I hope I’m way off mark

    Great piece, Joe

    1. India is in a tough bind. They have had border disputes with China, which at times has led to shooting flare ups. Thus, they have buddied up with Russia to help out with that.

      Yet, they also heavily depend on western contracts to do business, especially in the tech business.

      They are on a difficult tight rope.

  20. I see that as of this morning the IPC has located its spine. Let’s hope the FIA can do the same and actually take significant action. Yes, it’s not fair on the athletes, but a) some of them are almost certainly supporters of Putin (or their father’s are) and b) that’s the point. It’s not fair but nor is invading someone else’s country.

  21. Outstanding piece. Thank you Joe for this brilliant meshing of sport and history.
    Much as I enjoy watching F1 races, F1 & the FIA are no microcosms of the real world.

  22. Excellent post Joe – As the former Italian Head Coach, Arrigo Sacchi, once said “Football is the most important of the least important things in life” I think the same can be said about motor sport – at present there are far more important things to resolve……

  23. Motorsport (and sport in general) may not be the most important or intelligent or sophisticated way of spending one’s time but I’m often delighted how well some people writing about sport manage to make sense of things und put them into perspective. This piece is a prime example. Thank you!

  24. I am happy to report that the swedish equivalent of Motorsport UK, Svensk Bilsport, has followed in banning all russian and belarusian participation in their events. Too late for the swedish WRC rally, but still…

  25. This is excellent journalism, thank you Joe.

    I have watched/listened/read wall-to-wall coverage of the Ukrainian Invasion over this last week, and you did it best.

    Much respect.

    Slava Ukraini

    1. Joe, Thank you for bringing your interest in history to this discussion.

      I follow you for insight into my favorite sport. Occasionally, you gift me with insight into the world.

      Thank you.

      -Mike Hodish

  26. I’ve read your fine article and all the posts, and one question comes to mind through all of this. What would the F1 organisation have done if, say Hamilton or Verstappen were Russian?

  27. The world is large and yet small. In this technical age we become closer because of the internet. My family is from Ukraine. And there are members in Kyiv today. I hope for their safety everyday.

    To all the Russians I say this is a reflection of your government and not you personally. However, you have he power to change this. Follow the examples of the Ukraine citizens. March and voice your displeasure!

  28. And yet the Saudis can bomb babies in Yemen (with weapons supplied by the UK), the US can march into a range of countries and cause mayhem (Irag, Libya etc)? What does FIA think about that? This is about NATO expansion and NATO missiles being sited next to Russian soil, a history of neo Nazism in Ukraine for decades and western meddling in Ukraine (oh, and gas, thanks to Joe’s beloved EU). There have been thousands of casualties since 2015 in the Donetsk region, with the west supplying Ukraine with weaponery. The only losers are the ordinary people of Ukraine and Russia – and us, thanks to our craven war mongering leaders. Watch Oliver Stone’s 2016 documentary Ukraine on Fire for an alternative view to the blanket propaganda being stuffed down our throats.

    1. You sound suspiciously like a Russian bot – the idea that neo-Nazism in Ukraine is being prevented by peace-loving Russians could be taken from Russian State TV. What was that you said about propaganda?

      1. I don’t like Putin (unlike Bernie E) and I don’t believe he’s particularly peace loving either. However the west is being incredibly hypocritical over this as I’ve outlined above.

        1. I’m sure that if you feel strongly about this, you can move east, although you may already be there.

    2. In these days of submarine-launched ballistic missiles – which make up the overwhelming majority of the nuclear arsenals of Britain*, France and the USA – the presence of a small number of land-based warheads is a red herring. Not that any of the land-based ones are currently based in a country bordering Russia anyway.

      Also you forgot to call the Ukrainian Army “bandits” and their politicians “drug addicts”. Standards are slipping.

      * Britain ONLY has SLBMs

  29. Quite a dilemma, many have a blinkered and rose tinted view of the mix of sport and politics, but thanks Joe for a succinct exlanation of the pros and cons of the FIA and the MSUK approach.I suppose if Saudi and other countries with rather unsavoury approaches to their own and other countries’ citizens actually attacked another, Yemen for example – no, that wouldn’t happen, would it?

  30. Excellent piece. Could it be that because the FIA director is not European that he is out of sync with these times?

  31. Hi
    I agree with most of your analysis although I’d appreciate clarification as to how you see the FIA out of step with the IOC. I’ve always hoped that motorsport (and other sports) would stay out of politics. Someone somewhere is going to have a serious gripe about every single nation that holds a Grand Prix. There are separatist movements almost everywhere and although no major military actions thank G-d, aren’t we just opening up the possibility of limiting ourselves to just one Grand Prix – on the uncontended Isle of Wight?

    1. There’s a point at which difference of degree becomes difference in kind. Other countries have bad policies, persecute minorities, etc. (China, certain Gulf states, just to name a few F1 host nations of recent years), but what Russia is doing is not comparable to these, bad as they are.

  32. We cannot have now in F1 the son of a Belarusian oligarch, whose F1 seat was purchased from the billions his father made from the grace and favour of his pal, Vladimir Putin, who is now engaged in war (and alleged war crimes) against an innocent European country. That is pretty obvious and it is astonishing that the FIA was unable to foresee at least how it will look when Mazepin is interviewed repeatedly before the world about this atrocity – and certainly won’t be criticising Putin. Mazepin’s presence brings F1 into disrepute and, to be honest, it wasn’t the greatest look for F1 even before the Ukraine invasion. At least he was usually last.

    That was an easy decision to get right but the FIA messed it up as badly as…well, their previous decision on the final lap in Abu Dhabi. At what point should we question whether the FIA is competent to exercise judgement in the affairs of F1 and other motorsports?

    The other question – whether to exclude all Russians from motorsport – is far more difficult when they aren’t representing their country, and they have no particular privilege or connection to Putin. They never had any say in who their president is, and they may be even more horrified than us to see Putin killing their brothers and sisters in Ukraine. On balance, though, I understand Dave Richards’ stance and, as sad as this also is, if we can do anything that may help create conditions in which Russians might have a chance to remove Putin, then in my opinion we have an obligation to do it.

    By the way, I write this from my home in Warsaw, which is only 200 miles from many of the Russian forces attacking Ukraine. From my window I can see at any hour many Ukrainian refugees arriving – there are about 600,000 in Poland by now. And everyone in this city knows, in ways that few British can comprehend, what war means and what Russian occupation means. So I cannot help but applaud the serious response that British motorsport has made in support of their friends and colleagues in Ukraine and anywhere else that may be under Putin’s gaze.

  33. What a superb piece, so perfectly expressed

    I thought the counter argument to Kyvat was well framed too. For every Russian sportsperson affected how many men, woman and children have been killed or displaced.

    It looks like the FIA are as usual on the wrong side of the argument. I think if the election was re-run we may have a different outcome based on how he has performed over his two first key tests.

  34. “his days in power are numbered”
    You suspect Russia is democracy…

    “for nearly 77 years the Europe continent has been at peace.”
    Yugoslavia might seemed to be one country but it was always a forced union of countries, so I would not declare those events in the 90s as civil war – let alone peace.

  35. “Death by a thousand cuts.” That’s why every single sanction the world can impose on Russia and Putin — small, medium and large — must be executed as soon as possible. The FIA has again failed to read the room, as they say. A big thank you to David Richards for ignoring the FIA’s official position.

  36. Shouldn’t be a consideration in a discussion on sport, but the UAE has effectively blocked Ukrainians from entering the country and has refused to approve the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the attack upon a sovereign nation. There’s a long list of UAE-Russian joint ventures which, according to the Pentagon, includes the Wagner Group mercenaries. Apparently the financial community also believes that the oligarchs are spiriting their piggy banks and their mistresses from London to Abu Dhabi lickety-split.

    So, when the most lenient of sanctions implemented against Russia by any international sporting body are made by one that is run by a prominent member of the UAE establishment, well, the optics for motor sport could be considerably better.

    1. Look out for the oligarchs ‘parking’ assets with complicit Westerners. I imagine that would be absolute catnip for someone like Flav or even BCE… Many thanks, Joe, for your insights on this topic.

  37. Hi Joe,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    I’m afraid that your theory that the more you suppress the opposition, the more it grows, isn’t supported by the facts, at least here in Russia. Since the protests against 2012 presidential election results, the magnitude of public display of discontent with Putin has been steadily declining. I guess that he is using all his experience as an intelligence officer to achieve that. And even if I see that our situation is going to hell in a hurry, I don’t think it’s worth risking being thrown in jail, tortured or killed for a hope that my protest would help to reverse this process.
    I wonder if the sanctions and exclusion measures have caused the people abroad to be wary of all Russians in the future, or if they can separate the actions of our government from actions of regular Russian people.
    I can assure you that everyone I know wants this horrible mess to end as soon as possible.

    From Russia with love.


    1. It isn’t a theory. If you study resistance movements of all kinds – as I have done – the pattern is always the same. The difference is the timescale and the way people react. The more brutal the suppression, the more brutal the reaction.

      1. Thanks again Joe and sorry for forgetting that you are actually well-versed in history, much better than me.
        In that case I suppose that the key to suppressing opposition without getting more resistance is doing it quietly and limiting the public’s access to information that the opposition even exists. That way the country is roughly divided into two groups: the ones that support the government and the ones who oppose it, but know very well what will happen if they do it openly.
        As for the timescale, I’m afraid that Russian people could be too enduring. Most people have seen the collapse of Soviet Union, empty shelves in stores, default and the drop of the Russian ruble. So when it happens again, they could say: “OK, we’ve been through it before, we will get through it now”, and not even think about throwing the government out. But we’ll see.

  38. Joe, any word from inside Haas on when they’ll announce Pietro? Their twitter (first time I’ve checked twitter in years) has been posting pics of only Mick and now posted one of Pietro driving with a teaser for test 2. This is definitely the most attention Haas has gotten in years, I wonder if Bernie has Gene’s ear and told him to drag it out to keep them in the news on the theory of “no such thing as bad publicity”?

  39. Banning Russian drivers isn’t going to make Putin wake up and take notice since, as you yourself said Joe, motorsport is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The FIA knows that, since it would be a useless exercise, further propagating discord as Kvyat said. And not every Russian agrees with Putin.

  40. Joe,

    Apologies if I am being thick-headed. Am I correct in understanding that even if Mazepin were to continue with Haas (doubtable as it certainly seems) he cannot drive in the British GP because of Motorsport UK’s announcements? This is regardless of his driving under a neutral flag, correct, or am I off base?

  41. Every cut counts…………….the more the deeper………Azerbaijan should be the next to go signing as they did a comprehensive security and military agreement with Russia the day before the invasion. If one reads the script closely it bans all forms of negative actions collectively so no chance of the drivers using their platform to make comments supporting Ukraine should they choose to race there……..ditto going there supports Russia…………

  42. Joe, I have the Grand Prix Saboteurs book behind me on my bookshelf. I thought this history would stay behind us. It is disturbing to think in future another book like this might emerge

  43. Do you know or can we be sure that the TASS website ‘facing’ west is the same that is seen by the inhabitants of Russia?

  44. The problem is though Joe that, whilst the sanctions are aimed at Putin, they will impact on ordinary Russians in a devastating way. The West could not have done any more to drive Russia closer to China if it tried. This whole mess is an abject failure of diplomacy on all sides.

    1. China does not need to get involved. It is happy to see Russia weaken itself. You cannot do diplomacy with someone like Putin. Macron tried… and is still trying. It doesn’t work. You become an appeaser. If the only way to get rid of Putin is to turn the people against him, then there really isn’t much else to be done. He doesn’t play by your rules!

  45. I see Kyvat and his WEC boss have made their allegiances known. Sorry chaps, but take your ball back to Russia until you realise what your President is doing – school ground bully, who at some point the vast majority of the rest of the world will have to confront. Georgia, Chechnya, Crimea, and now Ukraine…

    I have to confess that Blair’s invasion of Iraq also crossed the line for me. Luckily we have a true democracy and he got ousted anyway. This won’t happen in Russia as Putin changed the rules on re-election. So he next faces the vote in 2024, and could stay until 2036.

  46. Another excellent piece, dear Joe; thank you!

    With all respect, including my awareness about you being a historian by trade, I need to correct you on this:
    ” The Cold War was stressful in many respects but in that era the Soviets did not step over of line in Europe. They kept to their own territories and did not dare to venture beyond.”

    We can wish. But the 3.000 tanks in Budapest on the 4th November 1956, or the 500.000 soldiers on Czechoslovakian soil in Aucust 1968 unfortunately provide evidence of the contrary…even ig you are right in principle!

      1. Well, if you see England as viking territory – and France as US?!
        No, it was a brutal invasion of European countries forced to deploy the soviet regime – with initial freedom fights developing, but brutally surpressed in 1956 and 1968.

  47. I read Nikita Mazepin has gone public about sport and neutrality, and the ability to have a non-public point of view. It’s clear he fully supports the war. The WEC guy was incredible too – we won’t be able to hear the Russian anthem when we get a win – what about the people dying you fool?

    Maybe he should think of the people dying in Ukraine, the people who will die in North Africa who won’t be able to get bread and starve due to loss of Ukraine wheat exports, the upcoming fertiliser crisis that will affect crop yields and cause food shortages, the people who may die from cold in Europe as sanctions lead to Russian gas being switched off, etc. The people who will be plunged into poverty due to fuel costs, etc, etc.

    He has a spectacular lack of empathy for the people dying, and a complete lack of self awareness about what the majority think of him and his actions. His personality leaves a lot to be desired. Kind of reminds me of his President. So Nikita, I’m sorry you won’t be able to race, but seems pretty minor compared to dying.

    I’m conflicted by double standards. The UK should not have invaded Iraq for example. Maybe sport should sanction countries where the UN hasn’t approved military action?

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