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Nikita Mazepin

Why Mazepin has not necessarily been banned from the British GP

Earlier this week, Motorsport UK released a statement that suggested Nikita Mazepin, and all Russian drivers, would be banned from competing in the British Grand Prix. Dieter Rencken explains why that plan may be bound to failure.

Nikita Mazpein
Article
To news overview © Haas F1

Following the FIA's decision that Russian and Belarusian drivers may participate in international competitions only in a neutral capacity and under the 'FIA flag' subject to specific commitments given by them, Motorsport UK, the FIA's delegated national sporting authority (ASN) in the country, stated: "No Russian/Belarusian licenced competitors and officials are approved to participate in UK motorsport events."

The statement added that "no Russian/Belarusian national symbols, colours, flags (on uniform, equipment and car) to be displayed at Motorsport UK permitted events." Note the neat reversal and lower-case usage of "UK motorsport events" and Motorsport UK permitted events – a crucial difference.

The British ASN went on to state that their decision had been taken "in full accordance with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendations" - which it had, though, followed only selectively - and had been "made in full consultation with the UK Government and national sports governing bodies to ensure there is a unilateral response to the crisis."

However, "unilateral" clearly means within a UK context and "consultation with the UK Government" hardly implies ministerial agreement. In addition, Motorsport UK's stance is certainly not aligned with the FIA's decisions as outlined above and subsequently clarified, namely that Russian/Belarusian drivers may participate in international/zone competitions in a neutral capacity.

Is Mazepin actually banned from the British GP?

Motorsport UK's comments were, though, immediately taken by numerous media outlets to mean that Haas F1 driver Nikita Mazepin, who is sponsored by entities controlled by his oligarch father, would be banned from participating in July's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

The Russian driver, whose car sported Russia's blue/red/white national colours - albeit purporting to represent the corporate livery of the family's Uralkali chemical business, throughout 2021 and during the first two days of last week's pre-season testing - was not specifically named by Motorsport UK, but the association made no attempts to dissuade such speculation. Hence the various media reports.

While bans on drivers from the two countries could undoubtedly be justified on moral grounds, MotorsportUK may find its jurisdiction is limited to non-world championship events, as Article 2.2.4 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code, the purpose of which is "to regulate, encourage and facilitate motorsport" makes clear: An International Competition, when it counts towards an international Championship, cup, trophy, challenge or series which bears the name of the FIA, is placed under the sporting supervision of the FIA.

			© Haas
	© Haas

The crucial details in the Mazepin row

Then, the very next clause states: "For all other International Competitions, the ASNs are responsible for the application in their country of the international regulations established by the Code together with the ASN's regulations and the regulations applicable to the Competition." The distinction between the two articles makes clear that world championships are FIA and not ASN territory.

Then there is competition licence compliance, outlined in Article 9.81: A Competitor's or Driver's Licence issued by an ASN shall be valid in all countries represented on the FIA and shall entitle the holder to enter... all Competitions ... appearing on the International Sporting Calendar, subject to conditions mentioned in the Code concerning the approval of the ASN. (Note: "Approval of the ASN" has no relevance in this matter).

The article (2.6.2.c) governing Super Licences - as required to participate in Formula 1 events - is even more specific: The Super Licence document remains the property of the FIA, which will deliver it to each holder. It follows that if Motorsport UK intend on banning Mazepin they will be dealing with an FIA licence holder, not simply the bearer of a document issued by another ASN.

Crucially, through their FIA affiliation, the UK body agree to be "bound by the Code" as per Article 1.4.2, which includes recognising that "the FIA shall be the final international court of appeal for the settlement of disputes arising therefrom".

British GP ban appears "bound to lead to failure"

While Motorsport UK claim that they adopted their stance only after "full consultation with the UK government", this overlooks a crucial point: Mazepin has a home in Oxford and thus currently has the right to remain in the UK, having also studied at Oxford College.

RacingNews365.com pointed out the various anomalies to Motorsport UK, which responded with the following: "Motorsport UK has no further comment to make following the announcement yesterday that Russian and Belarusian licences will no longer be accepted in UK permitted motorsport events. Our actions are a clear signal of protest to Russia and Belarus that they cannot use motorsport in the UK to represent their interests."

Note that the use of "UK permitted motorsport events" varies substantially from the initial statement, thus altering the entire context as the British Grand Prix is an international event and not UK permitted as other international series contested on British soil are. This careful (re)wording may explain why the response took close on 12 hours...

The FIA did not respond to a request for clarity on Motorsport UK's position that Mazepin - and all Russian/Belarusian drivers - should be banned from racing internationally until all atrocities committed by their countries are permanently halted and reparations made was abundantly clear and was unambiguously spelt out in this analysis.

Simply put, by deviating from the FIA decisions and ISC code Motorsport UK are pursuing a path that is bound to lead to failure – regardless of the moral imperative.

What next for the FIA and their sanctions on Russia?

Ultimately the blame for this disconnect can be laid squarely at the feet of the FIA World Motorsport Council, whose decisions were confusing at best and tepid at worst: by partially (and most conveniently) following the IOC recommendations - designed for national team sports and not individual endeavours - the FIA failed to take any decisive action, not even via it's belated 'commitment form'.

Equally, by failing to force the resignations of Russian officials and commission members - such as WMSC member Victor Kiryanov - from senior positions, the FIA has effectively signalled its tolerance for the situation. Nothing short of an outright, far-reaching suspension of the Russian and Belarus automobile federations, which would remove their authority to issue licences, should have been agreed.

That single move would have eliminated all ambiguity while sending a clear signal to the Ukrainian people, whose race drivers cannot, after all, compete at all...

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: All you need to know after the first pre-season test

At the end of the first pre-season test of 2022 in Barcelona, Dieter Rencken and Thomas Maher discuss the on- and off-track developments so far.

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