Entertainment, Sports

Russian Formula One driver Nikita Mazepin sacked by Haas

Russian Formula One driver Nikita Mazepin has been sacked by Haas with immediate effect.

Mazepin’s contract has been terminated by the American-owned team following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

His father, oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, is a part-owner of Haas’ title sponsor, Uralkali, and an associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Haas confirmed its partnership with Uralkali has also been terminated.

A statement read: “Haas F1 Team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin.

“As with the rest of the Formula One community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”

The FIA has allowed Russian drivers to continue racing, albeit under a neutral flag.

But the sporting federation said on Friday that all drivers must agree to its principles of peace and neutrality and “acknowledge the strong commitment made by the FIA to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the Federation Automobile d’Ukraine, and all of those suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict”.

Mazepin expressed his disappointment at the decision and said he had accepted the principles set out by the FIA.

“Dear fans and followers, I am very disappointed to hear that my F1 contract has been terminated,” Mazepin wrote on Twitter.

“While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored and no process was followed in this unilateral step.

“To those who have tried to understand, my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times. I will have more to say in the  coming days.”

Formula One also ended its contract with the Russian Grand Prix on Thursday, while Motorsport UK announced Russian-licenced drivers will be banned from competing in the United Kingdom.

Haas said Mazepin’s replacement will be named next week. The team’s reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, has been linked with the seat.

The concluding three-day pre-season test begins in Bahrain on Thursday ahead of the opening round in the Gulf Kingdom on March 20.

In another Ukraine-related matter, the PA news agency understands China has blocked coverage of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures.

The competition and its clubs expressed their intention to show solidarity with Ukraine in various ways across the 10-match programme and Chinese rights holder iQIYI Sports has reacted by refusing to show the games.

The Premier League has declined to comment on a move which has been interpreted as a sign of China’s strong relationship with Russia.

Players from Aston Villa and Southampton stand for a moment of reflection and solidarity with Ukraine
Players from Aston Villa and Southampton stand for a moment of reflection and solidarity with Ukraine (David Davies/PA)

On Saturday Ukraine flags were displayed by fans and on scoreboards at numerous grounds including Villa Park and Carrow Road while players stood together before kick-off to take in a moment of reflection.

In terms of the Premier League’s TV deal in Russia, chief executive Richard Masters told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit this week the arrangement was “under review”. It could be suspended or terminated soon, although it is likely matches will be aired this weekend.

Meanwhile, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons used his speech at the opening of the Beijing Winter Paralympics to make an impassioned plea for peace.

The Games started on Saturday, 48 hours after the IPC performed a U-turn to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition rather than allow them to participate as neutrals.

“Tonight I want and must begin with a message of peace,” said Parsons as the Paralympics were officially opened on Friday at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

“As a leader of an organisation with inclusion at its core, where diversity is celebrated and differences embraced, I am horrified at what is taking place in the world right now.

“The 21st century is a time for dialogue and diplomacy, not war and hate.

“The Olympic truce for peace during the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a UN resolution. It must be respected and observed, not violated.”

Despite the war in their homeland, Ukraine managed to send a full delegation of 20 athletes and nine guides to Beijing.

And the team won a medal on the first day with biathlete Taras Rad claiming silver behind China’s Zixu Liu.

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