F1's Vettel won't race in Russia after attack on Ukraine
Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel says he will not race in the Russian Grand Prix in September after Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine earlier Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling.
After President Vladimir Putin defiantly announced he was launching a military operation, Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border.
“I woke up to this morning’s news shocked. I think it’s horrible to see what is happening. Obviously if you look at the calendar we have a race scheduled in Russia (on Sept. 25),” Vettel said Thursday at preseason testing in Barcelona.
“My own opinion is I should not go, I will not go," he said. "I think it’s wrong to race in the country. I’m sorry for the innocent people that are losing their lives, that are getting killed (for) stupid reasons and a very strange and mad leadership.”
The 34-year-old German is head of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association but says they have not yet discussed the matter.
“I’m sure it’s something we’ll talk about,” the Aston Martin driver said. “But personally I’m shocked and sad to see what’s going on, so we will see going forward but I think my decision is already made."
World champion Max Verstappen agreed with Vettel but stopped short of saying he'd pull out.
“I think when a country is at war it's not correct to race there, that's for sure,” Verstappen said. “But it's not only what I think, it's the whole paddock (that is) going to decide what we are going to do next.”
Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso said: “We can make our own decisions for sure but eventually I think Formula One will do the best (thing).”
F1 said in a statement that it is “closely watching the very fluid developments” but made no further comment on whether the race in Sochi would be canceled.
F1 team principals planned to meet Thursday night to discuss the situation.
“My wish is that somehow everything will stop very soon. We will have a meeting between us tonight, try to understand and how to cope and how to manage with it,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said. “A deep discussion (to) understand all the implications and the right choice for the future.”
Williams CEO Jost Capito urged F1 to choose wisely.
“It's a very sad situation and our thoughts are with the people who are involved,” he said. “We think about the performance of our cars where other people are scared to lose their lives. We have to have this in mind and we're all aligned on this ... (F1) will take a proper and a right decision for all of us.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia shattered peace on the European continent and called for a summit of NATO alliance leaders.
Stoltenberg said that “this is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion.” And he charged that “Russia is using force to try to rewrite history.”
The Associated Press learned earlier Thursday that UEFA will no longer stage this season’s Champions League final in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
An extraordinary meeting of the UEFA executive committee will be held Friday when officials are set to confirm taking the May 28 showpiece game out of Russia, a person with knowledge of the process said Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.
Meanwhile, German soccer team Schalke is removing the logo of Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom from its jerseys. The team said it will be replaced by lettering reading “Schalke 04” following what it called “recent developments.”