Russian F1 driver Nikita Mazepin, in a gesture to honour World War II victims and veterans, took a knee on Sunday. This comes after Russia marked the 76th anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany.
Russia had parades across the country on May 9 to show solidarity to an estimated 27 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives in the war against Hitlerite forces.
Mazepin had his own version of support at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack in Spain.
The Haas racer was seen dropping to one knee which was later revealed to mark Victory Day rather than being associated with Black Lives Matter.
“In my actions before the race I decided to kneel to show to respect to those who have lost their lives 76 years ago in the war,” the 22-year-old driver wrote on Instagram.
In an interview with the Russian press, Mazepin revealed more details.
“It was a one-off action on my part,” Mazepin said. “I think it’s important to show respect in this way to people who died during the Great Patriotic War, there were almost 30 million of them.
“My grandmothers and grandfathers also took part in the war, they were in concentration camps. It’s an important day for my family, and I thought it was necessary to make this gesture on this important day.”
Mazepin faces criticism
Unfortunately for him, his action was subject to heavy criticism with some people suggesting that he was taking a swipe at the infamous Black Lives Matter.
“You can’t choose what [you] kneel for. This is specifically for the drivers to show their respect and support for the black lives matter. Your choice of words here show you do not care about fighting racism. How shameless can [you] be?” one response said.
“Yes, you can absolutely choose what for, when, and how you want to protest,” another said in defense of Mazepin.
“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.
One fan defending Mazepin 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!”
The Russian youngster has been involved in scandals even before his F1 career began. One such incident was when he was filmed grabbing a female friend’s breast in the back of a car.
He later apologised and Haas stuck with him even though there were calls to dump the driver altogether. They would though, wouldn’t they!
With a difficult start to his career involving numerous spins, Mazepin’s latest gesture has earned him the respect of several fans while gaining the wrath of others.
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