While F1 remains focused on the serious head injuries suffered by Jules Bianchi in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, it also could be headed for fresh controversy over this weekend’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.
The race, already clouded by the injuries to Marussia driver Bianchi, who remains in intensive care with what has been described as a diffuse axonal injury, could be blighted further by the anticipated presence at the event of Russian President Vladimir Putin, focus of international approbrium over the ongoing events in Ukraine, for which Russia has been hit by international sanctions.
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, a longtime personal friend of Putin, told Britain’s The Times that Russia’s disputes with the West have no bearing on the race.
“No one has spoken to me about this race or told me that we cannot go,” said Ecclestone. “The sanctions do not affect us and what we are doing is not illegal.
“The Russian people asked us to come here and that is what we are doing. We are putting on a Grand Prix. This is nothing to do with politics. As I have always said, we do not do politics. We are in Sochi to race,” he added.
Ecclestone’s affinity with international lightning-rod Putin has raised eyebrows before. Earlier this year, Ecclestone was quoted by the British media as saying that not only did he “completely agree” with Putin’s anti-gay propaganda laws, but that he believes “90 percent of the world” does too.