FIA’s stance against Russian drivers ‘illegal’

Thu, 15 June 2023, 09:00

Jun.15 (GMM) One of Russia’s most influential motorsport officials thinks the FIA’s stance about Russian drivers could be “illegal”.

Nikita Mazepin is the highest profile example of a Formula 1 driver whose career was halted by the Ukraine crisis because of his Russian nationality – and he is still locked out of the UK and unable to kick-start talks with F1 teams.

But Boris Rotenberg, a Russian oligarch and billionaire behind the successful SMP Racing program, says Ferrari tester Robert Shwartzman also had to jump through hoops to stay in Europe.

Shwartzman left the SMP program last year and even officially changed his nationality from Russian to Israeli to retain his role at the Maranello based team.

“Robert made a decision,” said Rotenberg. “I couldn’t force him to stay in Russia.

“He has his own dream, which is understandable. But he was born in Russia, he grew up here, we raised him, but he has a dream that he wants to realise – to get into Formula 1,” he told the Tass news agency.

“But that’s his decision, I can’t comment on that. And I wouldn’t do that.

“He lost his father and surely experienced some kind of pressure. But the rest of all the guys returned to participate in our championships,” he added.

The Russia-Ukraine issue is now largely off-limits in F1 circles, but Rotenberg actually thinks the FIA’s actions – including asking Russian drivers to formally sign a renouncement of their Russian loyalty – were “illegal”.

“I think that, firstly, it is illegal,” he insisted. “I saw it (the document) and he has to give up everything and betray his country.

“But sport should be out of politics. It should only unite. Even in such a situation, sport and culture should unite. But justice will always triumph, and the truth will always triumph,” Rotenberg said.

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