Russian ex-Haas driver Mazepin cleared to race in Europe

Russian ex-Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin was Thursday cleared to return to motor racing in Europe, a year after his career was brought to a halt by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The 23-year-old Mazepin had been racing in the world championship for the Haas team which was financed by the Uralkali company owned by his father Dmitry.

Both his contract and the title sponsorship of the team were cancelled on the outbreak of the war.

The European Union's General Court on Thursday lifted some of the sanctions against Nikita Mazepin, a decision which allows him to travel and attempt to resurrect his career on the continent.

The EU had sanctioned him as his father's company had "activity in economic sectors which constitute a substantial source of income" for Russia.

Thursday's order still prevents Mazepin from competing for a team which has links either to his father or anyone already sanctioned by the EU.

"In the event of recruitment" in F1 or in another motor sport taking place on European territory, Nikita Mazepin "must undertake to race under a neutral flag and to sign the commitment of the drivers required by the International Automobile Federation to this effect," said the declaration.

Mazepin, who has recently been racing in Asia, welcomed the decision by the EU body.

"I am very happy with this decision which gives me hope to resume my professional career in international motor racing," he told AFP.

"I will do my best to make up for lost time and look forward to rejoin the sport that I love, to which I have dedicated my life."

His legal team told AFP that the order was a "rare" decision.

The General Court ruled that Mazepin "is in no way involved in the aggression suffered by Ukraine and does not exercise any activity in economic sectors which provide a substantial source of income" to Russia.

"He has always maintained a neutral position on the war as a professional athlete," added the order.

"He only asks that he be given the opportunity to pursue his career ... without the financial support of his father."

In explaining its decision, the court said that the European Council did not "provide convincing evidence" showing that the ex-Haas driver "should be considered as still being linked to his father".

Mazepin endured a tough single season in Formula 1, ending the 2021 season in 21st place and without a single point to his name.