Formula 1 urged to lift ban on Russian drivers as Nikita Mazepin eyes return

The Russian Grand Prix was axed in 2022 for the foreseeable following the escalation of the conflict in Eastern Europe.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Vitaly Petrov has called for young Russian racing drivers to be given additional support to help them return to motorsport, with the current conflict in Eastern Europe having seen many careers halted.

The start of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia saw the FIA ban drivers from racing under the Russian flag, with the governing body insisting that they use a neutral flag.

Many sports across the world banned Russian athletes altogether, leaving most with no option but to return home.

This was the case for Nikita Mazepin, who was axed by Haas prior to the start of the 2022 season due to severing ties with his father’s company Uralkali – a Russian fertiliser company.

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Mazepin returned home for 2022 and only took part in a rally race in his nation; however, he’s revealed that he’ll be returning to racing in 2023.

Petrov has called for the FIA to allow Russian drivers to return under their own flag, and to use the current conflict as an opportunity to train “young people”.

“Without Russia, I don’t consider a single champion or Olympic title to be valid,” Petrov told Sport-Express.

“We have to stop being afraid of our people and bring Russia back into world sport. For me, it’s not acceptable. I don’t understand at all this absurdity of imposing certain opinions on people.

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“We can use the current situation as an impetus for the development of motorsport, training young people to guide them further into the future.”

Petrov is hopeful that young drivers from his nation won’t “give up” on a career in motorsport, with most having effectively lost an entire season of racing.

The former Renault and Caterham driver has called for young Russian racers to “be patient, practice and not stop believing”, with the hope that they’ll be allowed to resume their careers soon.

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“After all, this isolation will not last forever,” he added.

“I understand it’s difficult, but no one should give up.

“I myself have wanted to race in Formula 1 all my life, so I understand young drivers very well. But they have to be patient, practice and not stop believing, so when the opportunity to come back comes, we’ll all be ready.”