Wednesday marked four days since Nikita Mazepin was released by Haas F1 Team as the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued to impact Russian sport. Various drivers and athletes of Russian and ally Belarusian nationality, including Mazepin, have either been required to compete under a neutral flag or were banned entirely from international sporting events. Unhappy with losing his ride despite accepting the former’s conditions, he has launched the “We Compete As One” foundation, which intends to support such athletes who have been unable to take part in their respective sports internationally due to “political reasons”.
“Today I am announcing the creation of a new foundation to help athletes who have been blocked from competing for political reasons. #WeCompeteAsOne”, tweeted Mazepin.
The foundation’s name is a jab at F1’s “We Race As One” campaign intended to promote diversity and acceptance in motorsport. With many Russian athletes being prohibited from entering international events, those like Mazepin have defended themselves by arguing such verdicts unfairly single them out for the actions of their government. A week prior, the Russian Automobile Federation released a statement condemning the FIA’s decision to require Russian and Belarusian drivers to race under FIA flags, accusing it of being “discriminatory and contrary” of the FIA statues.
On 5 March, approximately a week and a half after Russia began its Ukrainian invasion and a fortnight before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Haas dropped Mazepin and title sponsor Uralkali, which is operated by his father Dmitry and provided a stable financial boost for the team during tumultuous seasons of recent. While Mazepin’s presence has long been maligned due to his behaviour, background, and on-track performance, the action to fire him was finally taken as the invasion and ensuing criticism mounted. Even if Mazepin had not been released, he would not have been able to race at the British Grand Prix due to Motorsport UK forbidding Russian drivers from competing.
The older Mazepin is close with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which resulted in the European Union imposing sanctions on him and many Russian nationals on Wednesday.
“Dmitry Arkadievich MAZEPIN is the owner and CEO of the mineral fertiliser company Uralchem,” begins the reasoning from the Official Journal of the European Union. “Uralchem Group is a Russian manufacturer of a wide range of chemical products, including mineral fertilisers and ammoniac saltpetre. According to the company, it is the largest producer of ammonium nitrate as well as the second-largest producer of ammonia and nitrogen fertilisers in Russia. Dmitry Arkadievich MAZEPIN is thus involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine.
“On 24 February 2022, in the aftermath of the initial stages of Russian aggression against Ukraine, Dmitry Arkadievich MAZEPIN, along with other 36 businesspeople, met with President Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian government to discuss the impact of the course of action in the wake of Western sanctions. The fact that he was invited to attend this meeting shows that he is a member of the closest circle of Vladimir Putin and that he is supporting or implementing actions or policies which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as stability and security in Ukraine. It also shows that he is one of the leading businesspersons involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of Russia, which is responsible for annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of Ukraine.”
Nikita was also sanctioned by the EU who explained, “He is a natural person associated with a leading businessperson (his father) involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine.”
Many Russian oligarchs and enterprises have faced sweeping sanctions worldwide. In the sports world, events including the Russian Grand Prix have either been moved or cancelled altogether.
Both stories come the same day that Haas announced Kevin Magnussen would replace Magnussen as Mick Schumacher‘s team-mate. The team has yet to find a replacement title sponsor.