Nikita Mazepin says Russian athletes are victims of ‘cancel culture’

Nikita Mazepin, the exiled Formula One driver, has said he and his fellow Russian athletes are victims of “cancel culture”.

Mazepin was dropped by Haas in March after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with numerous other sports banning Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams in the past six weeks.

Speaking with the BBC’s HARDtalk programme, Mazepin criticized the sanctioning of Russian athletes.

“I don’t agree with being in sanctions and I’ve said previously that I intend to fight it,” Mazepin said.

“Perhaps now is not the right time because if you look at the whole situation that’s happening against athletes in the general case, it’s cancel culture against my country.”

The 23-year-old is the son of Russian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, a significant stakeholder in former Haas title sponsor, fertilizer producer Uralkali.

Mazepin Sr was described by an EU sanctions list as “a member of the closest circle of Vladimir Putin” and attended a meeting with the Russian President on Feb 24, the day Russia’s invasion began, to “discuss the impact of the course of action in the wake of Western sanctions”.

Despite his father’s links with Putin, Mazepin Jr said that his “only connection to my country’s president is through the sport that I do.”

When asked about apparent atrocities committed by Russian forces, having earlier said that he wanted to keep his position private, Mazepin said it was “very painful to watch that on many levels”.

“My feelings, they obviously changed as a human being and as a person who wants to live in a very peaceful world,” he added.

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The former F1 driver – who finished 20th and last in the 2021 standings, without scoring a point – said there were “risks” in expressing his opinion about the war in Ukraine.

“I see tremendous risks in saying anything at all about this case because I will never satisfy everyone and, therefore. I will keep myself publicly quiet.

“There are risks on all sides. Regardless of what you say or do there is an army of critics waiting to parse every one of my words, every single thing you do. I am 23 years of age and honestly it’s very hard to navigate through this.”

Instead of driving for Haas at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Mazepin said he was working on his recently launched foundation to support sanctioned Russian athletes, saying it was “taking up a lot of his time”.

The foundation, We Compete As One, has a strikingly similar name to F1’s own We Race As One diversity initiative, which was launched in 2021.

‘All people have the right to stay neutral’

Speaking at the foundation’s launch in March, Mazepin said: “The whole reason I made this foundation is because I value that people, all people, have the right to stay neutral.”

“Whether they are athletes or people from other industries, that doesn’t matter. So this is my position and I will not be adding anything.”

Despite earlier sanctions against Russian athletes, Mazepin was allowed to compete in the 2021 F1 championship on the condition that he could not race under the Russian flag, instead representing the Russian Automobile Federation.

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Mazepin was replaced by Dane Kevin Magnussen for the current season. All Uralkali sponsorship and branding was removed from team cars and property before the final day of the first pre-season test in Barcelona, ​​with the team also ditching its red, white and blue livery.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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