Artem Severikukhin, a 15-year-old karting driver, has been sacked by Ward Racing for an alleged Nazi salute after winning in the first round of the OK category in the Karting European Championship in Portugal.
Having qualified fastest in his Heat on Day Two, the Russian beat Joe Turney and Evan Giltaire to victory in the race on Day Three, and was stood on the podium under the Italian flag having applied for a license with the country.
This is due to the necessity for Russian and Belarusian racing drivers competing in any FIA sanctioned event to race under a neutral flag, while a prohibition was also placed on any “flag/symbol or anthem of Russia/Belarus to be used in international/zone competitions, until further notice” due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
During the ceremony, the teenager beat his chest and appeared to perform a Nazi salute with his hand before laughing.
This did not go unnoticed by the governing body, and they opened up an investigation on Monday afternoon.
“The Federation Interntionale de l’automobile confirms that it has launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct or Artem Severiukhin that occurred during the podium ceremony for the OK category at Round 1 of the 2022 FIA Karting European Championship at the Katrodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal,” read a statement.
“The FIA will communicate shortly on the further steps that will be taken in this case.”
Severikukhin himself has denied making such a gesture, affirming that he was simply thanking his team and those cheering him on from his home country.
“I would like to address everyone about yesterday’s situation on the podium,” he said, quoted by a spokesperson from the Russian automobile federation (RAF).
“I won the round of the European Championship and was very happy.
“I’m from Russia. I thanked the team and my relatives from Russia. Someone saw a bad gesture in my actions, but it’s not. I just thanked them. I am Russian, I am from Russia and I stand by my country.”
His Ward Racing team are mortified by the behaviour of their driver, and have thus taken the decision to terminate his contract.
“Ward Racing is deeply in shame of the pilot’s behaviour which it condemns in the strongest possible terms. Action will promptly be taken accordingly,” they stated.
“The actions of Artem Severyukhin during the award ceremony on April 10, 2022 were exclusively individual and do not represent the views and values of Ward Racing in any manner. On the contrary, Ward Racing stands with the international community condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expresses its solidarity with the people suffering because of this unprovoked and horrific attack.
“Ward Racing accordingly condemns the personal actions of pilot Artem Severyukhin during the award ceremony on April 10, 2022 in the strongest possible terms, as it considers them a manifestation of unsportsmanlike behaviour, an unacceptable violation of the ethical and moral sports codex.
“With this statement, Ward Racing expresses its opinion, as well as the opinion of all athletes and staff of the Ward Racing team. On the basis of these considerations, Ward Racing sees no possibility for continued cooperation with Artem Severyukhin and will proceed with terminating his racing contract.”
It is as yet unknown whether the Russian will have his license revoked by the FIA, neither have they given a timeframe for when they will conclude their investigation.
Since the invasion began, Motorsport UK has ruled that no Russian or Belarusian driver is to compete in the country, which the RAF suggested this contravenes the FIA’s code against “discrimination.”