Questions over the inaugural running of the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi’s Olympic Park are being raised as tensions with Ukraine continue.
Mere days after the country hosted a successful Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort, the political crisis in Ukraine sparked movements from Moscow leading to what is being called the annexation of Crimea.
Clashes between pro-Russian and Ukrainian groups in other Eastern Ukrainian cities are further escalating matters and have led to the West imposing sanctions on those close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
These sanctions have reportedly affected one of the country’s young racing drivers as sponsor SMP bank and backer of the Sauber-associated Sergey Sirotkin, Boris Rotenberg, has been targeted.
Earlier Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda played down suggestions the sport should cancel the race because of the ongoing tensions being blamed on Moscow, however, one British politician has voiced his concern about the October race going ahead.
Sir Richard Ottoway, the chairman of House of Commons foreign affairs select committee, has claimed the race in Sochi would be “wildly unrealistic” in the face of current turmoil and sanctions.
“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 told The Times newspaper.
The British daily’s F1 correspondent, Kevin Eason, has also suggested the matter could cause anxiety among some of the teams while the sport’s sponsors may also wish to distance themselves from the current crisis.
Certainly as the date draws closer and considering where the story turns between now and October, the Russia – Ukraine stand-off could create a scenario very similar to that in Bahrain in recent years.
In 2011, the race there was cancelled amid an uprising in the island state but while there is no such threat of the Ukraine situation affecting events in Sochi, the moral question will be key in determining if any such postponement should be considered.
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