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‘You can’t choose what to kneel for’: Russian F1 driver Mazepin takes knee to honor WWII victims, gets accused of swipe at BLM

Russia held parades and ceremonies across the country on May 9 to honor the estimated 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in the war against Hitlerite forces which came to an end in 1945.

Away from parades such as those on Moscow’s iconic Red Square, F1 driver Mazepin made a tribute of his own at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack in Spain.

Haas racer Mazepin was seen dropping to one knee at the circuit along with fellow drivers, and later revealed it was to mark Victory Day rather than being associated with Black Lives Matter. 

“Yes, you can absolutely choose what for, when, and how you want to protest,” came a reply in defense of Mazepin.

“There’s not some monopoly on protesting and people have been doing it well before BLM was even a thought.”

“In Russia the 9th of May is known as the ‘Day of victory’, when the Nazis capitulated, and it is a day when the dead are remembered.

“Nikita still completely missed the point of why the drivers are/were kneeling,” claimed one critic with a Twitter handle containing the hashtag #WeSayNoToMazepin.

In another reply defending Mazepin, one fan wrote: “I think that he has the right to have his own point! He chose to honor the memory of the fallen in the greatest war against racism! This must be respected! An act of a strong man and personality!”

“Thanks man. Those trolls who dare to open their mouths to banish you for this gesture are completely unaware that 76 years ago people literally lost their lives fighting against the racism,” came one response in defense of the Russian racer.

“You can’t just choose what you want to kneel for,” tweeted one person with a smile – before another Twitter user added “actually, they can,” sharing a snippet of a BBC report on changes to the F1 rules on protests for drivers.

The full version of the report reads that drivers can “choose their own gesture to support inclusivity on the grid,” and there was no suggestion Mazepin was contravening the rules with his actions.

While numerous drivers continue to kneel regularly in a nod to the BLM movement, those such as Mazepin and bigger stars like Mercedes ace Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull sensation Max Verstappen have not done so.  

F1 drivers pictured at the Bahrain GP in November 2020. © Reuters

Mazepin’s act of kneeling was not the only way he marked Victory Day – which in Russia is celebrated on May 9, as opposed to one day earlier in Western Europe due to the timing of the signing of the German surrender.

The young driver also appeared in a specially-designed helmet bearing a number 9 and the black and orange colors of the Ribbon of St George – a symbol associated with the national remembrance and celebrations.    

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Nikita Mazepin (@nikita_mazepin)

On the track, Mazepin finished at the back of the field in 19th in Sunday’s race, which was won by Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton.

Haas teammate Mick Schumacher – son of F1 legend Michael Schumacher – finished one place above Mazepin in 18th as the team’s struggles continued against their much quicker rivals.

There was one lighter note, however, as Mazepin shared an online poll in which he was voted fourth in the ‘driver of the day stakes’ – writing “Thanks for your votes, let’s keep pushing” and adding a laughing emoji.

Mazepin joined Haas this season as his father, Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, joined as a major sponsor of the team with his company Uralkali. That led to accusations of Mazepin effectively buying his spot on the team, although he shone as he emerged through the F2 ranks.

The Russian youngster was embroiled in scandal before he even began his F1 career when he was filmed grabbing at a female friend’s breast in the back of a car, although he later apologized and Haas stuck with him despite calls to dump the driver.

A difficult start to life in F1 involving numerous spins hasn’t helped, although Mazepin’s latest gesture has earned him respect as he seeks to establish his reputation on and off the track.   

© 2021, paradox. All rights reserved.

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