Vatanen calls for Russian GP boycott

Vatanen calls for Russian GP boycott

4 September 2014 – Ari Vatanen has called for the Russian Grand Prix to be boycotted in response to the Ukraine crisis and MH17 tragedy, suggesting that current FIA President Jean Todt shares the same concerns over the race.

While Todt has echoed Bernie Ecclestone's comments that sport and politics must not mix, Vatanen, who opposed Todt during the FIA's last election process in 2009, says the Frenchman's "hands are tied".

"Of course Jean knows about my comments, we spoke about it. We are friends. I think he partly shares my view," Vatanen, now President of the FIA's Closed Road Commission, said in an interview with The Telegraph.

"It is true that his hands are tied. I can say things much more openly and freely than he can. I'm not saying he agrees with everything I say, but he has a much more reduced room for manoeuvre. He cannot do big moves one day to another. Any movement by people starting to talk about it and then it can spread and lead to action."

Vatanen added that F1 would be "condoning" President Vladimir Putin's activities if the race goes ahead.

"Do we support the regime who is masterminding this bloodshed? Or do we say this is not correct?" Vatanen questioned. "It would send a message of acceptance if we went to Russia. It would say we condone, effectively, maybe not explicitly, but by our actions we condone what is going on because it is used in propaganda.

"It is often said that Formula 1 should not mix politics and sport, but the Russian regime is already mixing politics and sport in a blatant way, so we have to respond. It is for Bernie and the owners to cancel the race."

Vatanen, a former member of the European Parliament, summarised: "It is an unprecedented situation since the Second World War, and we have to ask ourselves how history will remember us and what we did or did not do."

The inaugural Russian Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in Sochi on the weekend of October 11-12.

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