F1’s broken ties with Russia: No end in sight?

Formula 1’s relationship with Russia remains deeply fractured, says the ex-promoter of the now-defunct Sochi race.

In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict that erupted early in 2022, the world’s top motorsport category completely cut off all ties with the nation, impacting driver Nikita Mazepin, his sponsor Uralkali, and the Russian Grand Prix itself.

Alexey Titov, who previously managed the Sochi event and now oversees the prestigious Igora Drive circuit elsewhere in Russia, voiced his concerns to Championat. He indicated that the rift is so severe that Russian fans are even blocked from accessing the official F1 website.

“Liberty (Media) is a leftist organisation,” Titov declared, “so it operates according to the American leftist politics that pervade half the United States.”

When probed about efforts to appeal F1’s decision to block Russian internet service providers, Titov was pessimistic. “Of course, I will send an appeal, but given our common tense relationship, I doubt that there will be any result,” he noted.

Furthermore, Titov mentioned that F1 has refused to refund the advance payment for the 2022 Russian Grand Prix, which was ultimately cancelled.

“Nothing has changed,” he disclosed. “Naturally, we are fighting, taking certain actions, working with lawyers. But so far it’s like Andrei Leonidovich Kostin said – ‘they screwed it up!'”

Titov elaborated on the complications surrounding the return of the funds: “Their (F1’s) position is that they would be happy to return it, but we are all under sanctions, transfers are closed, so you have to wait.”

He also stated that any reimbursement should include accrued interest. “Of course,” he said, “How else would you do it? This money could be working for our benefit.”

Despite the ongoing deadlock, Titov sees no point in initiating new discussions to bring back Formula 1 to Russia or to start talks with Liberty Media’s recent acquisition, MotoGP.

“At a commercial level, I don’t see the point in such dialogues now,” he commented. “With Formula 1, we are where we were before – they left, slamming the door, keeping the money.”

Regarding the potential for MotoGP and World Superbike to adopt a more favorable stance towards Russia following Dorna’s sale to Liberty, Titov remains skeptical. “Considering that Dorna recently sold to Liberty, I highly doubt that the position on MotoGP and World Superbike will suddenly become pro-Russian,” he added.

Titov suggests that the solution might involve the involvement of governing bodies. “Any warming of relations should be supported by the federations,” he asserted. “No matter how much two commercial organisations would like to agree to stage a race in Russia, any official championship is under the control of the FIA or FIM.”

“Until a solution is found at this sports-political level, all commercial agreements are meaningless, so we need to talk at a higher level.”

He concluded with a firm stance: “But in general, they left on their own. Well, let them come back to us themselves. This is my personal opinion, but it’s how I see it.”

GMM

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