As you have probably all noticed, the war in Ukraine has triggered many international sanctions against Russia. Among them also some sanctions for Russian sports federations and athletes. The FIA will not contest any events in Russia and Russian drivers are not allowed to compete under the Russian flag. However, participations with another racing license or under the FIA flag are still possible. Motorsport UK goes one step further and completely excludes Russian and Belarusian licensed athletes from competition in the United Kingdom. Finland, Sweden, Estonia and other countries have also joined the UK sanctions.


In this article I look at the situation of several Russian drivers and what the various sanctions mean for their season. And for those who are interested, you can find my personal opinion about the whole situation at the end.


Alex Smolyar will be competing for MP Motorsport in FIA F3 this year. It would be his third year in the series. So far he has won two races in the championship. Due to the FIA sanctions he is not allowed to start with the Russian flag and will probably participate under the FIA flag. In addition, he will probably not be allowed to contest the race weekend in Silverstone due to the license ban imposed by Motorsport UK.


Irina Sidorkova is back competing in the W Series this year. She was only able to compete in five races out of eight races last season. She had to skip one round in Spa-Francorchamps due to a positive corona test, which was negative again one day after the race. She was also not allowed to compete in the last two races of the season at the Circuit of the Americas after being denied a visa to the United States. It will probably not be a normal season for the 18-year-old Russian this year either. She is currently still allowed to compete under the FIA flag, but will at least miss the third race in Silverstone. She already was not allowed on short notice to participate in the W Series test, which took place on the same day as the Russian invasion in the Ukraine.


Vladislav Lomko is competing in the Euroformula Open for Van Amersfoort Racing for the first time this year. He has competed in Formula 4 races over the last two years, taking five race wins. Vlad was born in Paris and therefore might have the possibility to start with a French flag. However, it is more likely that he will also use the neutral FIA flag.


The 16-year-old Nikita Bedrin already competed in Formula 4 UAE this year and finished the championship in fourth place with two victories. His plans for the rest of the year have not yet been announced. It is assumed that he will complete a second year in Italian Formula 4. ADAC F4 probably won't be possible for him, as the German Motorsport Association DMSB has also joined the sanctions from the UK. The 2020 WSK Super Master Series - OK champion is also likely to compete under the neutral FIA flag.


Vladislav Ryabov also wanted to contest his second year in Formula 4 this year. Last year he finished eighth in the Spanish F4 Championship with the GRS team, finishing second on the podium twice. After a rather disappointing start to the season in F4 UAE, he wants to attack again in F4 Spain for the rest of the year. This will probably be with a neutral FIA flag.


Max Arkhangelskiy made his single-seater debut last season with the Drivex Team in F4 Spain. He finished the championship in ninth place and twice finished on the podium in third place. This year, he will compete again with Drivex in Spanish Formula 4, but he will probably use the neutral FIA flag. 


Miron Pingasov has not yet officially announced his plans for this season. However, it can be assumed that he will again compete in Spanish Formula 4. Already during the F4 UAE Championship at the beginning of this year he started with a Spanish license. It is quite possible that we will see him using the Spanish flag for the rest of the season. 


Victoria recently made her Formula 4 racing debut in the F4 UAE and also has plans for the 2022 main season, although these are unknown yet. It is unclear to what extent the sanctions will affect these plans. She will also probably use the FIA flag this year.


Daniel Mavlyutov had planned his racing debut in British Formula 4 for this year. But unfortunately nothing will come of it this year, at least not in Great Britain. So far, the 17-year-old has only competed at last year's Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch to complete his racing license. 


For all the above-mentioned and many other Russian drivers, however, it is far from clear whether they will be able to participate at all in races this year. The Russian Automobile Federation considered all decisions to exclude athletes to be "discriminatory and contrary to the FIA Statutes" on human rights and believed "that all sports organizations, including the RAF and the FIA, must take a neutral position on these issues" and "not use them as political leverage."


For the moment, the RAF wants its athletes to compete under a neutral flag, but reserves the right to recall athletes from competitions abroad at any time. It is quite possible that there could be court hearings on various sanctions later this year. 


First of all, I would like to state that I am a clear opponent of war, no matter where in the world and completely independent of who is the trigger. To direct weapons against the civilian population is ALWAYS wrong. Any human suffering is terrible.


Besides, I have never lived in Russia or the Ukraine, so I cannot presume to fully understand the situation. For the first time I have seen Russian state propaganda on TV last week. From my Western point of view, every word is simply ridiculous. But I can't imagine what it must be like to live with this propaganda every day. Of course, especially the younger generation is already aware of the fact that they are only told fairy tales. But especially the older ones, who often only consume state media and therefore also voted for Putin, will probably have more trouble changing their way of thinking.


I support many of the sanctions. Especially among the Russian elite, the oligarchs, they have and will have an effect. Moreover, in my opinion, they are the only people who could exert pressure on Putin. But also the Russian people will feel the sanctions and the international isolation the longer the more. But this is exactly where it gets difficult for me. What can the common people do about Putin waging war? Why do you punish Russian people and athletes who are not responsible for the war? Who are also against the war?


Why are Russian athletes being pressured to publicly distance themselves from Putin? Were any athletes urged to distance themselves from their president during previous American (or British) invasions, such as Iraq? And to condemn his actions? Why does Formula 1 not start in Russia, but continues to start in Saudi Arabia, which is currently waging war in Yemen?


And why is it only now that we are reacting to this war with such strong and widespread sanctions? Why is it only now that all borders are being opened to refugees in Europe? Are wars and humanitarian emergencies in the Middle East or in Africa any less bad? Or do you just not care then? Does American propaganda really sound that much better? Or do they just pay better?


Don't get me wrong. It is very nice to see the great willingness to help and the compassion for the Ukrainian refugees. I just hope that in the future they will act accordingly in similar situations. However, I do not believe in it.


I think it is good that there are no big international events in Russia. Also that Nikita Mazepin has lost his F1 cockpit is only a logical consequence of the terminated contract with Uralkali. Without this support he would never have entered Formula 1 in the first place anyway. Personally, I don't really care that the Russians can only compete in FIA events under a neutral flag. This measure does not really achieve much anyway, except that Russian citizens feel excluded. But I think it is definitely wrong to exclude most of the Russian athletes from international competitions. Of course, many of them were supported by state funds during their career. For me, however, this is a ridiculous reason. Most other nations also support their athletes with state money, which is rarely "clean". It's good if this money goes to sports instead of war. Besides, you need money to get far in top-level sports. Talent is rather secondary. 


Oh yes, and who is actually financing the war in Ukraine? Indirectly, among others, the EU, USA and other countries by paying gas prices that are currently pretty high. The EU, for example, pays more money to Russia since the beginning of the war than before. Per minute, the EU imports Russian gas worth an average of €250,000. So only a paltry 360 million per day. Change through trade... or so. Conclusion.. Russian state propaganda is more dangerous than we may thought. War and human suffering are always to be condemned. Sport, economy and other things are always political as well. And Western double standards just make me want to puke.

written by Claudio Graf  / 5th March 2022