Ukraine Crisis May Force Formula One To Abandon October's Sochi Grand Prix
F1 "could be forced to abandon the inaugural Russian Grand Prix as tensions continue to tighten between Moscow and Ukraine," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. The sport "could find itself trapped" between the political battle "as many fear that the dispute over Ukrainian territory is edging closer to war." British politicians "are closely watching events unfold, although unwilling yet to call for the grand prix to be scrapped." House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chair Richard Ottaway described the grand prix as “wildly unrealistic” against a background of mounting tension between the West and Russia, and warned that further sanctions "could put paid to the event." Ottaway: “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.” The race "was already going to be one of the more bizarre events" with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone told by local organizers that spectator viewing "would probably be limited to a single, purpose-built grandstand in front of the pits complex." Ecclestone insisted the race "will be safe," but political events are accelerating faster than an F1 car and it seems certain that the race "will become a target for activists" unless the Ukraine crisis is resolved before October (LONDON TIMES, 5/5). GMM reported Mercedes F1 Chair Niki Lauda "dismissed suggestions the sport should boycott the Sochi event." Last month, however, it emerged that the F1 career of Sauber test driver Sergey Sirotkin "was suddenly in doubt, after his sponsor SMP Bank was hit with U.S. 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" (GMM, 5/5).