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F1 teams rule out Russian race boycott

2014-07-26 07:21

ACTION MEN: The Force India pit crew prepares German driver Nico Hulkenberg's car for the second practice session ahead of the 2014 Hungarian Formula 1 GP. Image: AFP / Attila Kisbenedek


BUDAPEST, Hungary - Formula 1 teams will race in Russia despite the crisis in Ukraine and a Malaysian airliner being shot down.

That is, they add, unless the country's debut GP in October is called off or they are ordered not to go.

Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams, for instance, told a news conference here ahead of the 2014 Hungarian F1 GP on Friday: "What's going on in Russia and that part of the world is of huge concern to everybody but we've always said that, as a sport, we try to disengage from taking a political angle on these things.

"The International Automobile Federation is the governing body of our sport and it issues a calendar from which we take our direction. At the moment the race is still on the calendar."


Monisha Kaltenborn, principal of the Swiss Sauber team which has Russian partners and has committed to training Russian reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin, agreed. "We have to rely on the governing body and the commercial-rights holder.

"They have the responsibility and we will do as they say, as we've done in the past," said the Indian-born boss.

The European Union has threatened to impose harsher economic sanctions on Russia since 298 people were killed when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed - presumably shot down with a missile - near Donetsk on July 17 2014.

Many passengers were Dutch

Western states have blamed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine for killing those people and some politicians have called for the F1 GP to be cancelled. There could be sympathy for that among F1's backers:

  • Malaysian state oil company Petronas is the title sponsor of the championship-leading Mercedes team.
  • Williams has Dutch human resources multi-national Randstad as a backer.
  • Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell partners the Ferrari team whcih also have a Russian sponsor in software security company Kaspersky Lab.
  • Marussia is F1's only Russian-registered team and Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat is the country's only driver on the grid.


F1's commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone, who has in the past resisted similar pressure to cancel the Bahrain GP over human-rights concerns, has said the contract with Russia will not be broken.

"(Russian president Vladimir) Putin personally has been very supportive and very helpful and we will do the same," British media quoted the 83-year-old as saying.

World soccer ruler Fifa has also said it is committed to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, saying any boycott would not be an effective way to reduce tension in the region.

F1 teams are contracted to compete in all 19 races through 2014; not doing so can carry heavy financial penalties.

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal and close to Ecclestone, reacted tetchily when asked further questions about the human-rights records of some countries visited by F1. China and Bahrain are long-standing races on the calendar; Azerbaijan announced on Friday that it would be hosting a 'Grand Prix of Europe' in its capital, Baku, in 2016.


Horner replied: "Look, there is a calendar that comes out in October and November and we all have a choice whether we enter the championship. When we sign up for that championship we put our faith and trust in the promoter and the federation and we will attend those races unless they deem it unnecessary for us to be there."

Rights groups accuse the authorities in the former Soviet republic of muzzling dissent and jailing opponents, charges the government denies.

Horner criticised reporters for what he said was "becoming a very depressing press conference where we're focused on the negativities" and said it was wrong to make F1 a political subject.

"We are a sport, we should be talking about the drivers in these conferences, about the spectacular racing between our drivers," he added. "If you've got these questions then please point them at Mr Todt federation president) or Mr Ecclestone rather than the teams."

Read more on:    hungary  |  budapest  |  formula 1

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