Former Haas sponsor Uralkali has criticised the team for terminating their deal over what it described as political reasons and is demanding the money it paid is refunded.
A statement issued by Uralkali said the company “was advised by the team of their unilateral termination of the sponsorship agreement with Uralkali due to the current geopolitical situation.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24th. The following day Haas removed Uralkali’s logos from its car.
The team later confirmed the cancellation of the sponsorship deal and Nikita Mazepin’s contract to drive for them. Mazepin is the son of Uralkali’s billionaire owner Dmitry Mazepin, whose meeting with Putin in January was publicised on Uralkali’s website at the time, then deleted following the invasion.
In its statement today Uralkali said it considered Haas’s reaction “unreasonable” and argued “sports should always be free of politics and pressure from external factors.”
It indicated its next step could be to take legal action. “Uralkali intends to protect its interests in line with applicable legal procedures and reserves its rights to initiate judicial proceedings, claim damages and seek repayment of the significant amounts Uralkali had paid for the 2022 Formula 1 season.
“As most of the sponsorship funding for the 2022 season has already been transferred to Haas and given that the team terminated the sponsorship agreement before the first race of the 2022 season, Haas has thus failed to perform its obligations to Uralkali for this year’s season. Uralkali shall request the immediate reimbursement of the amounts received by Haas.”
Following the outbreak of war the FIA announced drivers from Russia and Belarus, which facilitated the invasion, would only be allowed to participate in events under certain conditions. The FIA stated such drivers must be identified as neutrals, should “acknowledge the strong commitment made by the FIA to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine” and undertake to “not express any support (direct or indirect) for the Russian and/or Belarusian activities in respect of Ukraine.” Mazepin is one of several Russian drivers whose participation in FIA events this year has been cancelled.
Other sports have taken different stances in reaction to the war. Russian teams have been banned from some competitions including FIFA and UEFA football competitions, rugby, skiing, ice skating, basketball and other disciplines. Some sports have allowed Russian individuals to continue competing as neutral participants.
Uralkali added: “The refund from Haas and the remaining part of Uralkali’s sponsor financing for 2022 will be used to establish the We Compete As One athlete support foundation”. Mazepin later said the foundation, which mimics the name of Formula 1’s ‘We Race As One’ initiative, is intended “to help athletes who have been blocked from competing for political reasons.”
Formula 2 team Hitech also confirmed yesterday it had cut its ties with Uralkali.
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