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FIA Says Russian and Belarusian Drivers Will Be Allowed to Compete Under Neutral Flag

Formula One's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), announced its decisions pertaining to Russia invading Ukraine, taking a slightly different stance than other leagues across the world. 

FIA decided to allow Russian and Belarusian drivers to compete under “the ‘FIA flag,’ subject to specific commitment and adherence to the FIA’s principles of peace and political neutrality,” and until further notice, no flag, symbol or anthem of Russia or Belarus will appear in international competitions. Additionally, no international competitions will be held in either country until further notice. 

Russian and Belarusian teams will not be allowed to compete, and “no Russian/Belarusian national symbols, colours, flags (uniform, equipment and car)- should be displayed or anthems should be played at international/zone competitions, until further notice.”

Haas F1’s cars had a red, white and blue color scheme during the first two days of preseason testing in Barcelona, but it announced in wake of Russia’s invasion that it would drop its Uralkali livery for the third day

The team’s title sponsor is Dmitry Mazepin’s company, Uralkali. Mazepin is known as a close associate of President Vladimir Putin, and as previously reported by ESPN, Dmitry was one of the business leaders who met with Putin on Thursday about the sanctions on Russia. 

Team principal Guenther Steiner confirmed last week that they will “work” on the sponsorship deal with Uralkali “next week.” What this means for the future of the sponsorship is unknown, but under FIA’s decision, driver Nikita Mazepin, who is the son of Dmitry, is allowed to compete under a neutral flag. 

Additionally FIA announced that the reason for the official cancellation of September’s Russian Grand Prix was because of “force majeure,” and Russian and Belarusian members of FIA will be required to temporarily step down from their roles. 

FIA President Mohammad Ben Sulayem condemned the invasion during his opening remarks, adding “our thoughts are with all those suffering as a result of the events in Ukraine.”

In the announcement, Sulayem said, “We stand in solidarity with Leonid Kostyuchenko, the President of the Federation Automobile d’Ukraine (FAU) and the wider FIA family in the country. The measures taken today recognise the authority of the FAU in Ukraine and are also aligned with the recommendations recently made by the International Olympic Committee.

“We are in active discussions with our members as we continue to extend our compassion and support in their time of need. We sincerely hope for a peaceful resolution to their intolerable hardship.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended all sports to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competition on Monday.

Sulayem called for an “extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council” after the Ukrainian motorsports federation sent a letter calling for a series of moves against Russia and Belarus, including barring Russian and Belarusian drivers from competing outside of their home countries. Other moves requested by FAU include banning the two countries from hosting FIA-sanctioned events, removing state symbols of the two countries from FIA and FIA-sanctioned competitions and excluding all Russian and Belarusian members from the governing body (FIA).

Meanwhile, teams and leagues across the world are taking action in the aftermath of the invasion. UEFA moved the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to Paris while the governing bodies of tennis decided to suspend the WTA/ATP combined event set in Moscow this upcoming October.

FIFA and UEFA also banned Russia from all international competitions—including qualifying games for the 2022 World Cup. Additionally, the ban will apply to the country’s men’s and women’s national teams, as well as any club teams competing in any FIFA or UEFA competitions. 

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