An unofficial asterisk is still hovering above this year’s inaugural running of the Russian grand prix.
Earlier, F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda dismissed suggestions the sport should boycott the Sochi event amid the escalating Crimean crisis. But last month, it emerged that the burgeoning F1 career of Sauber test driver Sergey Sirotkin was suddenly in doubt, after his sponsor SMP Bank was subject to US and European sanctions.
Sirotkin’s backer, Boris Rotenberg, is reportedly close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, with many other Russian athletes also being affected by his frozen bank accounts. Now, a prominent British politician has cast doubt on the viability of Russia’s October grand prix as the threat of open war between Moscow and Ukraine closes in.
Sir Richard Ottaway, chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee, told the Times newspaper that the Crimean crisis had made the prospect of the F1 race “wildly unrealistic”. “If a new round of tougher sanctions is introduced, formula one may find it impossible to put on a race because of restrictions on the flow of cash,” he said.
Times correspondent Kevin Eason also said the F1 teams “will be anxious” about the Russian grand prix in the wake of the Bahrain political controversies, while leading sponsors “may want to distance themselves” from Russia’s behaviour.