Vettel will not race in the Russian GP after invading Ukraine

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel said he will not race at the Russian Grand Prix in September after Russia launched an offensive in Ukraine on Thursday, bombing cities and military bases.

After President Vladimir Putin announced the start of a military operation, the Ukrainian government claimed that Russian tanks and troops had crossed the border.

“I woke up this morning shocked by the news. I think it’s terrible to see what’s happening. If you look at the calendar, there is a race scheduled in Russia (September 25),” Vettel said during pre-season testing in Barcelona on Thursday.

“In my opinion, I should not go, I will not go,” added the Aston Martin driver. “It seems to me a mistake to run in the country. I feel sorry for the innocent people who are losing their lives, killed for stupid reasons under strange and crazy leadership.”

The 34-year-old German driver leads the drivers’ association but said the group has not spoken on the subject.

“I’m sure it’s something we’ll talk about,” he said. “Personally I am stunned and sad to see what is happening, so we will see what will be done, but I think he made my decision.”

Reigning champion Max Verstappen agreed with Vettel but fell short of giving up racing in Russia.

“I think when a country is at war it’s not right to go running there,” said the Dutchman. “But it’s only what I think, it will be the whole grid that will decide what to do.”

Spaniard Fernando Alonso, two-time world champion, added: “We can make our own decisions, but of course in the end Formula One will decide for the best.”

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F1 released a statement saying it was “closely following developments very smoothly” but made no mention of whether the Sochi race could be cancelled.

The team bosses were scheduled to meet on Thursday night to discuss the situation.

“My wish is that somehow this whole situation ends soon. We are going to meet each other tonight, to try to understand and how to respond to it,” said Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.

Williams chief executive Jost Capito urged F1 to act wisely.

“It is a very sad situation and our thoughts are with the people involved,” he said. “We think about the performance of our single-seaters when there are people who fear losing their lives. We have to take that into account and we all agree on that… (F1) will make the right and appropriate decision for all of us.”

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