EU court takes ex-F1 driver Mazepin off Russia sanctions list

St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF)

By Bart H. Meijer and Tassilo Hummel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The EU's General Court on Wednesday handed a win to Russian former F1 driver Nikita Mazepin, overturning EU sanctions imposed against him as part of the bloc's response to Russia's war in Ukraine.

The European Union said it had added Mazepin, 25, to its sanctions list due to his association with his father, Dmitry, an influential businessman who it said was the main sponsor of his son's activities as a racing driver.

The European Union had described Dmitry Mazepin as "a member of the closest circle" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But in Wednesday's ruling, the court said Mazepin had stopped being a driver for the Haas F1 racing team, meaning the EU was wrong to keep the athlete on its sanctions list after he quit the team.

The court said the "association" criterion used in the EU sanctions regime requires the existence of a link going beyond a simple family relationship which it said wasn't the case after Mazepin stopped F1 racing.

"I am hugely encouraged by today's ruling and grateful to the European Court for a fair trial of my case," Mazepin said in a statement e-mailed by one of his aides. "This is certainly a crucial milestone."

Mazepin has also challenged EU and Canadian sanctions as part of his attempt to return to F1.

He currently competes in the Asian Le Mans series, a lesser-known racing league staging competitions in the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.

His aide did not immediately reply when asked by Reuters if Mazepin still planned to return to F1.

Last month, diplomatic sources told Reuters the EU was preparing to lift sanctions on Mazepin, saying Hungary had been lobbying on the driver's behalf.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, editing by Bart Meijer and Nick Macfie)