Following the unveiling of Sebastian Vettel’s newly designed crash helmet for the 2022 season, the Cyprus Automobile Association [CAA] have asked the FIA to order him to remove the Turkish Cypriot flag from it.
After Russia’s “barbaric” and “unprovoked” invasion of Ukraine, Vettel changed his helmet design to reflect the colours of the Ukrainian flag, replacing the customary German stripes that used to run along the helmet.
The new design also features a dove and the John Lennon lyrics “Imagine all the people.”
But the bone of contention would appear to lie in the fact that, at the foot of the helmet, a vast array of national flags are displayed, one of them being the Turkish Cypriot flag.
The North of Cyprus is only recognised as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus by Turkey themselves, after their invasion of the north in 1974 following Greek’s occupation of the island following their annexation from the now fallen British Empire.
Ceasefire talks were held that same year and Turkey agreed to stop their advance; they still hold territory on the northern part of Cyprus in what has been a long-standing political dispute between themselves and Greece.
Since the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not generally internationally recognised, the Cyprus motorsport governing body wrote to the FIA to state their displeasure at the presence of the flag on Vettel’s helmet.
“Vettel’s decision of sporting the pseudo-state’s flag on his helmet is unacceptable,” they said in a statement, before revealing that FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem gave them assurances that the matter would be resolved.
As a result, it looks as though Vettel will be forced to remove the flag, but a Turkish Cypriot Twitter account has hit out at the CAA for ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots, accusing them of racism.
“Sebastian Vettel’s ‘No War’ helmet carried 250 flags. The UN recognises 193 countries,” they said.
“The only people to complain against this brilliant action and universal message for global peace were Greek Cypriots.
“Your intolerance of the TRNC flag – the symbol of Turkish Cypriot identity and equality – speaks volumes.
“Even in a federal Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots would have their own flag, but you would have none of it.
“You don’t represent Turkish Cypriots or North Cyprus, and your desire to erase our existence is both spiteful and racist.
“Two states exist for a reason in Cyprus, and thanks to your unnecessary complaint, many, many more people in the world are now aware.”