Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday after President Vladimir Putin ordered a "specialised military operation"; Formula One's Russian Grand Prix is scheduled for September 25 in Sochi
Friday 25 February 2022 07:41, UK
Sebastian Vettel says he will not race at Formula One's Russian Grand Prix this season following the country's invasion of Ukraine, with world champion Max Verstappen also calling for the event to be cancelled.
The pair's words follow a statement from F1 bosses earlier on Thursday that said they were "closely watching" events in Ukraine, but were not prepared to offer comment on whether September's race in Sochi will go ahead.
Vettel, a four-time world champion who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), has in recent years spoken out against homophobia and racism while urging the sport to do more to combat such issues.
"In my personal opinion, I woke up to this morning's news, shocked, so I don't know." Vettel said at a press conference during pre-season testing.. "I think it's horrible to see what is happening.
"Obviously if you look at the calendar we have a race scheduled in Russia. For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go. I think it's wrong to race in the country.
"I'm sorry for the people, innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed for stupid reasons and a very, very strange and mad leadership.
"I'm sure it's something that we will talk about, but personally I'm just so shocked and sad to see what is going on. So we will see going forward, but I think my decision is already made."
Verstappen added: "When a country is at war it is not right to race there, that's for sure."
Fellow world champion Fernando Alonso also commented: "We have our opinion and I'm sure it's the same as everyone. We can make our own decisions for sure but eventually I think Formula 1 will do the best thing."
Russia launched its invasion on Thursday morning after President Vladimir Putin ordered a "specialised military operation".
Explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa, and Sky News understands that borders have been breached in at least four areas of Ukraine.
Ukraine's leadership said at least 40 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and at least several dozen wounded in what it called a "full-scale war" targeting the country from the east, north and south.
The race in Sochi, which has been on the F1 calendar since 2014, is scheduled to take place on September 25.
An F1 spokesperson said: "Formula One is closely watching the very fluid developments like many others and at this time has no further comment on the race scheduled for September.
"We will continue to monitor the situation very closely."
The Russian race at Sochi's Olympic Park is due to move to Igora Drive, 40 miles north of St Petersburg, from 2023.
Meanwhile, Haas - whose title sponsor is Russian company Uralkali and who have a Russian driver in Nikita Mazepin - withdrew team boss Guenther Steiner from Thursday's press conferences.
Mazepin, F1's only Russian driver, told Sky Sports News on Wednesday that he was "not struggling" with the situation and that he expected the Russian Grand Prix to go ahead.
"I'm not struggling at all because I've always been a big supporter of sports without politics," the Haas driver said during pre-season testing in Barcelona.
"Of course, from the understanding that we've had with Formula 1, the race is going and you will surely see me there."
UEFA on Thursday announced its executive committee would hold an extraordinary meeting on Friday, with European football's governing body already having been understood to be considering moving this season's Champions League final away from St Petersburg.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday there is "no chance" Russia will be allowed to host major football tournaments as a result of its decision to "invade a sovereign country".