‘There is no relationship there’: Ecclestone defends Mazepin amid calls for him to be fired

Nikita Mazepin is still permitted to race in Formula 1 this year, but he must compete under a neutral flag.

Former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes that the FIA’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian drivers to race was correct.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the last seven days, the motorsport governing body ruled that no Russian or Belarusian branding is to appear in motorsport, but it decided that drivers from the two countries are permitted to compete as long as they use a neutral flag.

This means that Haas’ Nikita Mazepin will be allowed to remain in F1, and Ecclestone has praised the decision by the FIA, insisting that Russian and Belarusian racing drivers have nothing to do with the war in Eastern Europe.

“It was absolutely the right decision by the FIA,” he said.

“There are so many things being agreed by the world about this conflict between Russian and Ukraine. But I don’t think anybody has really thought it through, or got their heads around it.

“If there is a Russian driver in F1, what does it have to do with Russia fighting a war? There is no relationship there.

“The Russian athletes have nothing to do with this conflict. They are not part of it, and they have never been part of it. They just happen to be Russian.”

Motorsport UK will, however, prevent Mazepin from contesting the British Grand Prix, as they have placed a ban on Russian and Belarusian drivers competing in the country.

“It is our duty to use whatever influence and leverage we might have to bring this wholly unjustified invasion of Ukraine to a halt,” said the UK’s motorsport governing body’s chairman David Richards.

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“We would encourage the motorsport community and our colleagues around the world to fully embrace the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee and do whatever we can to end this war.”

The Russian Automobile Federation (RAF) have since questioned whether this contravenes the FIA’s code against discrimination.

Mohammed ben Sulayem, president of the FIA, confirmed in their statement earlier this week that the Russian Grand Prix has been cancelled after Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen both spoke out against the event taking place.

Ecclestone does not see the point in cancelling the grand prix in Sochi, as it will have no effect on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Formula One Group decided it was the right thing to do to cancel the race but, whether that was the right thing to do, I don’t know? There is no war in Russia,” queried the 91-year-old.

“The FIA confirmed it was cancelled because the Formula One Group cancelled it. If nobody spoke about cancelling the race, I am sure the FIA wouldn’t have done anything.

“He [Putin] is probably not happy at all with what is happening, but with all these things going on, and him being branded a criminal and with the world against him, I don’t think he would care too much about a Formula One race.”

Russia’s invasion of what Daniil Kvyat described as their “brotherhood” nation has continued into its seventh day, and Russian forces have now seized the city of Kherson.