What The Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Means For F1

A lot of questions remain unanswered about what F1 will do in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine though some have already spoken up.

Several prominent figures in Formula One have come out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This has now started to raise questions as to whether or not Formula One will attend the Russian hosted Grand Prix in September this year. That’s not all, however, as Haas are deeply embroiled in this global event given that their main sponsor is Uralkali, a Russian fertiliser producer. Not to mention their Russian flag inspired livery and Russian driver, Nikita Mazepin, who is already a controversial figure in the sport.

The Driver's Response

Sebastian Vettel

What has started this all of is Sebastian Vettel outright saying that he will not attend the race in Russia if it goes ahead, “In my personal opinion, obviously I woke up again after this morning’s news, shocked. 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 that I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong to race in that country. I’m sorry for the people, innocent people who are losing their lives, getting killed for stupid reasons under a very strange and mad leadership.”

Vettel added that “my decision is already made” on the matter.

Last years’ champion, Max Verstappen, echoed Vettel’s sentiments during pre-season testing, “When a country is at war, it is not right to race there.”

Both Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc believe that Formula 1 will do the right thing with Leclerc stated that F1 will “take a decision and [with] more information than we do.”

Haas' Big Problem

Haas’ title sponsor is Uralkali, a Russian fertiliser company. The invasion has meant Haas have removed the Uralkali logo from their trucks and cars whilst the livery will be changed to all white as their original livery featured a Russian flag.

Haas have made a statement regarding the situation, “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. Nikita Mazepin will drive as planned in the morning sessions with Mick Schumacher taking over in the afternoon. No further comment will be made at this time regarding team partner agreements.”

Haas have been in financial woes ever since their debacle with Rich Energy. That partnership was dodgy from the start, but Haas were desperate. Rich Energy’s legitimacy as a company was discussed well before their partnership with Haas. Even team boss, Guenther Steiner had to address the issue, “Your due diligence you don’t do with the person there, there’s some other ways to do that. We did what we need to do. We needed to do it before we met him. Why do you doubt that? Obviously we did what we need to do, and our legal advisors were content with that.”

Eventually Rich Energy ate itself from within, though what there was to eat no one knows given that the brands poor market share and lack of product indicated something was always wrong. Haas was dropped from their sponsorship with nary a word of warning.

And this brings us to today with Haas’ current sponsor, Uralkali. Yet again, out of desperation, Haas went to a dodgy source for sponsorship. While they could never have predicted the invasion of Ukraine to occur, they already knew enough about the majority shareholder, Dmitry Mazepin, to have been wary.

Dmitry Mazepin (right) with Vladimir Putin (left)

Yes, Mazepin’s father is where Haas’ money comes from. His seat in F1 makes a little more sense, doesn’t it? Dmitry Mazepin is a Russian oligarch with many ties to Russian president, Vladimir Putin, he had a meeting with the president as recently as January. There have been numerous scandals and investigations over the years regarding Mazepin’s business dealings that often dealt with his business tactics and corporate governance. These include a recent case where Mazepin has been accused in an Irish court of conducting a decade-long corporate raid (an illegal hostile takeover using corrupt law enforcement) against a rival fertiliser company, TogliattiAzot.

Being of Belarusian descent, Mazepin also has strong ties to the controversial and authoritarian Lukashenko government as well. The U.S. government have considered personal sanctions on Mazepin due to his apparent attempt to profit from the recent unrest in Belarus and take over Belrusian fertiliser company, Belaruskali.

Yet despite all of this, Haas signed the deal.

While they couldn’t have predicted a situation like this, they haven’t made the best decisions in regard to their sponsors. Desperation may be the reason for their business dealings, but ultimately it has hurt them in the long run.

Will Haas even be able to survive if they have to drop their largest sponsor? What will Nikita Mazepin’s future look like in the sport? It’s not as if he has any part in the invasion but the strong ties his father has with Putin could prove to be fatal to his career. Maybe this is how Andretti enters F1 with a takeover of the Haas F1 Team?

Will F1 Race in Russia?

Formula One are not making any decisions too quickly in the heat of the moment while passions are running high. It’s a business after all. But they have made a statement,

“Formula 1 is closely watching the very fluid developments like many others and at this time has no further comment on the race scheduled for September. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely.”

It’s s typical safe response from a huge corporation and it wouldn’t be the first time F1 has ignored a host country’s recent controversies. Although none of those countries, like Azerbaijan or Turkey, had invaded a country in recent memory. Who can say whether or not this will push Formula 1 away from Russia as public sentiment is currently leaning against Russia. We do know that, according to Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, the organisation “will have a meeting tonight to understand and manage the situation.”

Mark Gallagher pointed out that ‘War’ is actually a part of a contractual clause that allows entities or parties to be relieve from their contractual obligations.

It seems more than likely that F1 will drop the Russian Grand Prix this year. 

If you wish to donate and help the people of Ukraine, here are a number of not-for-profit organisations sending aid to Ukraine:

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