The FIA has launched an investigation into an incident during the podium ceremony for the FIA Karting European Championship in Portugal on Sunday, when a Russian driver appeared to make a Nazi salute during the Italian national anthem.
Artem Severiukhin, who races under an Italian license due to the FIA’s ban on Russian-flagged drivers in the wake of that country’s invasion of Ukraine, made the gesture shortly after winning the 11-15 race.
While the FIA is beginning its investigation, Severiukhin’s team – Swedish-based Ward Racing – responded by firing the 15-year-old.
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) April 11, 2022
“Ward Racing is deeply ashamed of the pilot’s behavior which it condems in the strongest possible terms,” it said in a statement. “Action will promptly be taken accordingly.
“The actions of Artem Severiukhin during the award ceremony on April 10, 2022 were exclusively individual and do not represent the views and values of Ward Racing in any manner. On the contrary, Ward Racing stands with the international community condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expresses its solidarity with the people suffering because of this unprovoked and horrific attack.
“Since the start of the ongoing war, our firm stance has been demonstrated with “No War” helmets and stickers. In addition, we currently have three Ukrainian families traveling with us because they have no home to return to.
“As Swedish citizens, we are furthermore proud of our country which has made the historical decision to send weapons to Ukraine for the fight against the Russian army.
“Ward Racing condemns the personal actions of pilot Artem Severiukhin on April 10, 2022 in the strongest possible terms, as it considers them a manifestation of unsportsmanlike behavior, an unacceptable violation of the ethical and moral sports codex.
“With this statement, Ward Racing expresses its opinion, as well as the opinion of all athletes and staff of the Ward Racing team. On the basis of these considerations, Ward Racing sees no possibility for continued cooperation with Artem Severyukhin and will proceed with terminating his contract.
“Finally, Ward Racing would like to apologize to those who were hurt or distressed by the occurrence. It long has been and will remain a priority for Ward Racing to work for a more diverse, inclusive, and respectful racing climate.”
Severiukhin also responded to the incident with a video posted to social media in which he insisted that there had been a misunderstanding.
“I want to apologize to everyone for what happened yesterday,” he said. “Standing on the podium, I made a gesture that many considered to be a Nazi salute. It’s not true. I do not support Nazis and consider it one of the worst crimes in humanity.
“I know that I am a fool and I am ready to be punished. But please believe that there was no intention in my actions. There was no support for Nazis or fascism.”