Russian racing driver in High Court bid to get sanctions lifted

Russian racing driver Nikita Mazepin has begun a High Court fight with British government ministers after being made subject to sanctions in the wake of Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.

Mazepin, 24, who used to drive for the Haas Formula 1 Team, wants sanctions lifted and has taken legal action against Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

A judge considered preliminary issues at a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly leaves Downing Street in London
Nikita Mazepin was taking legal action against Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Belinda Jiao/PA)

Mr Justice Chamberlain heard that Mazepin and his father Dmitry Mazepin  – a Russian businessman – had been made subject to sanctions in mid-March 2022.

In September 2022, Mazepin had requested “revocation of his designation” but ministers had decided to “take no action”.

A judge is due to oversee a further hearing in London in June.

Mr Justice Chamberlain was told that Mazepin was involved in a similar bid to get sanctions lifted in Canada.

Neither Mazepin nor his father were at the hearing.

The High Court in London
The hearing was held at the High Court in London (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Barrister Tom Leary, who represented Mr Cleverly, told the judge that Haas had “terminated its relationship” with Mazepin in early March 2022, following the outbreak of war.

He said Mazepin had not driven for a Formula 1 team since.

Mazepin and his father were “subject to an asset freeze and travel ban”, the judge was told.

Mr Leary indicated that one of the reasons Mazepin wanted sanctions lifted was so that he could travel to Britain to negotiate with race teams for the 2024 season.

Mr Justice Chamberlain suggested that a trial judge might have to stage part of the proceedings in private in order to consider any “closed” material presented by ministers.

Barrister Rachel Scott, who represented Mazepin, told Mr Justice Chamberlain in a written case outline: “The UK sanctions to which he has been made subject, alongside the imposition of restrictive measures at EU level, effectively ended his racing career.

“He missed the 2022 season and, almost certainly, the 2023 season and, whilst those sanctions are in place, no Formula 1 team will take him on as a test, reserve or full driver.”

She added: “The claimant will, in effect, be unable to negotiate a place on a Formula 1 team for 2024 unless he is free to travel to and from the UK to attend negotiations at teams’ bases in the UK, bearing in mind that seven of the 10 teams are based in the UK.

“Negotiations to join a Formula 1 team usually begin in May or June of the previous year. Thereafter he must be able to enter the UK, not just for the British Formula 1 race, but for briefings, ergonomics design work, training and attending the team’s base.”