Sebastian Vettel has bluntly said he has no interest in racing at the Sochi Autodrom this season, after Russian forces launched a major military assault on neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday.
As a Director of the Grand Prix Driver's Association (GPDA), Vettel was asked whether he believes the race at Sochi should go ahead – the Russian Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in September.
"Well, I think as the GPDA, we haven't spoken on this subject, so I can't speak on behalf of GPDA," he told media, including RacingNews365.com, at the Thursday Drivers' Press Conference in Barcelona.
"But, in my personal opinion, obviously I've woken up again to this morning's news and [I'm] shocked. I don't know, I think it's horrible to see what is happening. And, 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."
Vettel criticises "mad leadership" in Russia
Clearly incensed by the news, Vettel lashed out at the "mad leadership" that took the decision to invade Ukraine.
"I'm sorry for the people, innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed for stupid reasons. [It's] a very, very strange and mad leadership," he said.
"I'm sure there's something that we will talk about but, as I said, on behalf of the GPDA, we haven't come together yet. Personally, I'm just so shocked and sad to see what's going on, so we will see going forward, but I think my decision is already made."
Max Verstappen, sitting alongside Vettel, agreed and stated: "When a country is at war, it's not correct to race there, that's for sure."
F1 "monitoring the situation" amid latest developments
With F1, like other major sporting organisations, coming under pressure to boycott Russia, Formula 1 management released a statement addressing the situation.
"Formula 1 is closely watching the very fluid developments like many others and, at this time, has no further comment on the race scheduled for September," read the statement.
"We will continue to monitor the situation very closely."
UEFA, football's leading European body, have already been urged by the UK government to find a new venue for May's Champions League final, set to be held in St. Petersburg, and it was only a matter of time before attention turned to September's Russian Grand Prix.
Haas' team boss Guenther Steiner, due to appear in a press conference at lunchtime on Thursday, was absent. Steiner's team are backed by Russian corporation Uralkali, as well as fielding Russian racing driver Nikita Mazepin. An official reason for Steiner's absence is yet to be confirmed by Haas or the FIA.
With F1 pre-season testing getting underway in Barcelona this week, our journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look ahead to what to expect.