Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel had a Ukraine flag emblazoned on his helmet in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when he drove his Aston Martin in testing in Bahrain on Thursday.
The 34-year-old German had spoken out forcefully a fortnight ago when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion, declaring he would refuse to drive in the Russian Grand Prix.
The September 25 race was quickly cancelled and a week later Formula One terminated their contract declaring there would be no further race in Russia.
Vettel’s helmet bore not only the Ukrainian flag but also a dove — the symbol of peace — with the words “Peace and Love”, “No war” and the words to John Lennon’s legendary song “Imagine”.
Vettel had also joined 17 of his rival drivers — the exceptions being seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, who has replaced the sacked Russian driver Nikita Mazepin — to pose behind a Ukrainian flag and a banner bearing the phrase “No war”.
Haas terminated both Mazepin’s contract and that of Russian title sponsor Uralkali — the company of which Mazepin’s father Dmitry is an executive director — last Saturday.
Hamilton, who for two years now has taken the knee prior to races in an anti-racism protest, had posted an Instagram message of support for the “courageous Ukrainian people” and called for donors to support British NGOs.
The taking the knee — an act which was not copied by all the drivers, some of whom preferred to stand and wear T-shirts with anti-racist slogans — has been scrapped for this season.
Testing in Bahrain takes place from Thursday to Saturday on the circuit where the campaign for real kicks off on Sunday week. It follows a first testing session in Barcelona last month.