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.