this is bbc news. we'll have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour, as newsday continues — straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. since vladimir putin launched his invasion of ukraine, russia has faced new levels of international isolation. that's had a big impact in sport, an arena which putin has long used to project russian pride and power. russian footballers have lost their chance of going to the world cup. my guest today has seen his
sporting dreams shattered, too. nikita mazepin was a formula 1 driver backed by his billionaire oligarch father. now, both of them have been sanctioned, and mazepinjr has been fired by his f1 team. does this sort of international pressure work? nikita mazepin in moscow, welcome to hardtalk. stephen, thank you for having me. it's a pleasure to have you on the show. you thought that right now, you would be driving in a formula 1 team,
you would be part of the f1 season. as it stands, you no longer have a job. what are you doing with your time right now? yes, stephen, you're very right. one month ago, i couldn't really even think about not being somewhere very far away from my home. but the time that i'm spending right now is very different. you know, i'm still training, keeping myself in shape. and also, i've launched a foundation to support athletes that, i have to be honest, is taking a lot of my time at the current time. and that's a foundation for athletes who find themselves barred from international competition like yourself, is it? yes, that's correct. so, my foundation is going to support all the athletes that have lost their chance to compete at the very high level due to a non—sporting reason — so let's say not
being able to travel to a competition venue because of where you're from or which passport that you hold. that's the kind of issues that we'll be addressing. yeah, and i do want to address that work with you later in the interview, but let's take this piece by piece. let's go back to february 2a, the news that went around the world that vladimir putin had launched this invasion of ukraine. as soon as you read and saw that news, did you realise it was going to have very serious implications for you? stephen, being honest, i remember it like it was yesterday. i was in barcelona at the very first test of driving the new car that formula i has released, and i was so focused on the test that, no, i couldn't imagine this could happen. did you, in those first hours and days, come to a clear
position yourself on the war? and i wonder what that position is. stephen, the whole reason for setting up this foundation that i've made was that, you know, people should have an opinion. and i'm always supporting those that want to voice it. but i am one of the people, the athletes, that actually want to keep their position private. and i think that is a very important right to have, and therefore i will keep that away from being in the public space. right, but you do, from time to time, put political content into the public sphere. at least you put political figures into the public sphere, not least vladimir putin, because, just going through your own social media feeds, you proudly, for example, in late 2020, posted a picture of you and your father
and vladimir putin together. you were wishing him a very happy birthday, thanking him and all he'd done for russian sport. i mean, it's clearly obvious from that that you're a big putin fan. stephen, that's incorrect. i am a citizen of my own country. i was born in russia, i was raised here, and my dream of becoming a formula i driver has happened because at the very early days of my career, you know, i was able to travel in my country and learn the sport and how to become better. my only connection to my country's president is through the sport that i do. and the time when i met him, it was actually at the racetrack, after i had won the race, i believe so. and, you know, that was to discuss that. and as you know, i was the only russian formula
i driver to compete, even in the last year. so, you know, this is how the connection does come, because formula i is the pinnacle of motorsport. and just one more thought on politics and sport before we move on. you posted another picture of yourself taking the knee, and i think that was at the barcelona grand prix last year. other drivers have taken the knee, for example, lewis hamilton, in support of black lives matter. you took the knee very specifically to honour russia's victory day and remember russia's war dead. again, that's not exactly consistent with keeping all political gestures out of your sport, is it? i don't fully agree. may the 9th was the sacrifice, and i feel it on a very deep level myself because my grandmother and my grandfather actually have been the victims of that war and their childhood has been massively impacted.
and, you know, growing up next to them was something that i felt myself personally. and those, you know, very difficult experiences that they had had to deal with in a young age, you know, without any psychological help that they could have thought of, that was my way ofjust paying respect. and for russians, it's not political. it's just like memorial day in the west. let's get to the moment when you realised you had no future this season with the haas team in formula i. you were informed, i guess, by the team boss, were you? i wouldn't call it informed. i was sent an email which, you know, had about five, six words in it, with a letter attached saying that, you know, my contract is terminated.
and it was just put in a legal way. beforehand, my manager was speaking to the team boss, who said that as long as the fia, which is the body that governs, you know, formula i as a federation, said that i can compete as long as i'm being neutral. that's what i thought. but then obviously saturday morning, 11.1i5am russian time, that's all changed. right, but this is a bit more thanjust about you and agreeing to drive under a neutral banner. this is also about your dad, inevitably, because your dad pumped tens of millions of dollars a year into the haas team. and for those who don't know, your dad dmitry is the boss of a massive fertiliser operation and is worth billions of dollars. so, his decision to back haas was obviously directly linked to haas taking you on as a team driver, and therefore your dad's close relationship
with vladimir putin was very relevant. that is not totally correct because, going by the documents, i have had a separate contract with a separate amount of backing that i was bringing in for securing my drive. now, the team has ended up in a very difficult situation, and that has perhaps enabled my dad to see it as an opportunity to invest in a team that is not very fast and perhaps help it grow and grow together because it also helps the image of the company. so the fact that my contract was terminated based on termination of the other contract is not factually correct. are you telling me that you believe you would have been a driverfor haas had your dad not put in these tens of millions of dollars?
stephen, i'm saying that i secured my formula i contract based on the contract that i've had, and the title sponsorship of the uralkali is a separate entity. and, you know, even more to that, at that point, there were no sanctions. it was 4th of may, and the sanctions, you know, surprisingly arrived on the 9th to myself. without wishing to be brutal, nikita, i mean, sport is a very brutal business, and it's a results and performance—based business, and maybe haas saw an opportunity. after the invasion of ukraine by putin and the idea that sportspeople from russia were going to be excluded from international competition, they saw an early opportunity to get you out of the team because you simply hadn't performed for them last year. in fact, your results were pretty appalling. well, you can perhaps say so,
but i feel that, you know, fia has made a very difficult route for drivers to get into formula i. what i'm saying is, to get into formula i, you need to secure a super licence, and you can only get it by doing well in the younger series, which i, i think, without any doubt secured. and last year, the team has invested zero dollars into developing a car, unlike the other nine teams, and we were competing for p19 and p20. so i think it's very harsh to judge it in the very early days of my career. plus, i had a four—year contract. well, those of our audience who've seen the netflix movies drive to survive, the series on fi, have seen an entire episode devoted to you and your dad and the team. and, i mean, several points come from that. number one, you were routinely beaten by your team colleague mick schumacher, and he was driving the same team car as you.
and you also — you know, you span off the track. you had this nickname of being "mazespin". your results were bad from beginning to end. and it looked as though your own team lost faith in you. i feel that that perhaps was the picture in the early days. you know, going into formula i, with one—and—a—half days of testing in the pre—season days, is never easy, and especially when the car is not like a mercedes ora top team. you know, the car was difficult to drive and i was making a lot of mistakes. and it genuinely was a very difficult for me. but i have had a very long—term vision in my career, same vision that i was discussing with the team. and, you know, me and my team—mate, we both had difficult days. i have been beaten by him,
but not all the time. i have had a weakness of qualifyings, but in the races, i think that was my rather strong point. and i've came up through formula 3 and formula 2 and, you know, i've won races there. so, you know, i don't doubt myself, but you just... you do need time in formula i. were you — again, this is tough stuff, but were you embarrassed when you looked back at the drive to survive episode that was about you, and you saw your dad appearing to say to the team boss that unless he put more time and effort into improving your car, he was going to withdraw his entire sponsorship of the team? it appeared to be a sort of a threat, almost even a blackmail. stephen, that's a difficult situation, because when you go into a formula i team with... even though we had a small
budget compared to leading teams, you'd expect that the car is all the same. but i have ended up with a car that's done, you know, over 22 races last year, it's been crashed a few times, the chassis is no longer the same structure. and then you get a team—mate that gets a brand—new car from the team. you know, you want the same treatment, and this is what i and my father was trying to fight for. just a final thought on the difficult season you had with haas in formula i. you brought a bit of baggage with you, and you know what i'm talking about. i'm talking about the past accusations of aggression. you were once banned for punching a rival in the face in formula 3. you then had a difficult period after you put up a video on social media which showed you, frankly, groping a young woman, for which you later apologised.
that was baggage that, clearly, the haas team didn't enjoy one little bit. can you now reflect, having got through all of that? why were you behaving in that way? it's never easy growing up. ithink, you know, you grow up and you learn from your mistakes. in my case, i've taken the full responsibility. and, you know, frankly speaking, i'm not proud of it, but it's the mistakes ofa young man, and i've been working hard to get through those things and get better. and therefore, you know, i started to do certain things to make the world a better place that i perhaps would have not done if i haven't lived through it. and it's just part of life, i believe. the fact is, you now are sanctioned. you're under eu sanctions, uk sanctions. so is yourfather, who, as i said, is known to be —
and the eu sanctions explicitly states this — a close business associate of vladimir putin, who, i believe, even after the ukraine invasion, was invited to a small meeting of business leaders to discuss with mr putin how sanctions would impact russia and how they could best be combated. so now that you are under these sanctions, your sporting career, i guess, is effectively over. i don't agree with being in the sanctions, and, you know, i've said previously that i intend to fight it. perhaps now is not the right time, because if you look at the whole situation that's happening against, you know, athletes and in the general case, you know, it's cancel culture against my country. so, you know, that's about the sanctions. and then in regards to the meeting that my dad has attended... my dad's responsible for a very
big company called uralkali, which supplies the fertiliser to the world. and as i say, not only to russia, but it's responsible for the global food security and the hunger. you know, the company controls about 35% of the world's market and is responsible for people eating and being healthy and surviving. so that's why they had this meeting, because it's a key industry for the country, but also for the world. right, i mean, nonetheless, it looks as though sanctions are going to be tightened rather than loosened in the short run, because — let us be honest — the war is taking an ever darker turn. now, you're talking to me from moscow. you're a young man who i'm sure uses a lot of social media, as well as tv. are you seeing the pictures that are coming out of ukraine, the civilians shot dead, some of them bound, apparently atrocities committed by russian
forces before they left towns and villages around kyiv? are you seeing that yourself? stephen, i live in the same world as you, although we perhaps are three, four hours away from each other by plane. but, you know, it is very painful to watch that on many levels. has it changed your feelings? you said to me at the beginning of this interview you would not make any public statement about your feelings about this war, but ijust wonder whether your feelings are changing over time. my feelings, you know, they obviously changed, as a human being and as a person that wants to live in a very peaceful world, but i will be honest with you, i just...
i see tremendous risks in saying anything at all about this case because i will never satisfy everyone, and therefore i will keep myself publicly quiet. but, nikita, there would be risks to you personally, maybe, as well, if you spoke to me about this. i mean, for example, literally, if you use the word "war" or the word "invasion", you could face criminal punishment in russia. it makes things very difficult to have a debate or a discussion, doesn't it? well, there's risks on all sides, stephen. you know, regardless of what you say or do, there is an army of critics waiting to parse every word, you know, every single thing you do. so, i'm 23 years of age, and it's honestly very hard to navigate through all this. no, listen, i get that.
but, i mean, there are young sportspeople who have made the decision to make a statement or at least a gesture. i'm thinking of the tennis star andrey rublev, who, in the dubai tennis championships, went up to a camera and wrote, "no war, please" in marker on that camera. that went around the world. i'm thinking of the 30 very prominent russian chess masters who signed an open letter calling on mr putin to end the war. there are people in sport and competition who've made choices — choices different from yours. yes, i know of them, and, you know, i really welcome their right to do that. as i said in the beginning of our discussion, it's important to do as you feel right. and, you know, if you want to voice your opinion, that's great. but i also think that there should be a place in neutrality in sports.
and, you know, if you put sports into a position where it becomes a political, you know, battleground, i believe, you know, it could become a very dangerous place to compete. as you pointed out, you're the only russian formula i driver — or you were — and there are no ukrainians. but ijust wonder, can you get inside what it might be like fora ukrainian competitor, sportsperson, to have to compete alongside a russian right now? i'm thinking of the gymnast who had to compete alongside ivan kuliak. kuliak, i think, got the bronze. the ukrainian won the competition. but on the podium, kuliak, on his vest, inscribed the z insignia which is being used by russian forces. how do you think that would have made a ukrainian athlete feel? it's a painful situation, but, you know, in the history of sports and, just generally in the world, there's been a lot of cases.
you know, if you go back to the �*80s, when the us boycotted the moscow olympics and then the ussr boycotted the los angeles 0lympics, you know, you could also see that as the dreams of hundreds of athletes have, you know, been sacrificed in the name of politics. so, not competing, i don't think it's right, because sports should be about sports. and, of course, it's painful because it's two very close peoples. just a thought on president putin and sport. i'm going to quote to you an academic expert on russia and sport, lukas aubin, who said, "putin has used sport as an element of power not only because it's part of his personality, but he's created a big sporting system, using oligarchs, politics, former athletes to create a machine, to create a beautiful picture of russia. in the world of sports, it has become a huge element of putin's soft power." would you accept that? i wouldn't have the expertise to speak on behalf of the other
sports, but i definitely feel that it's not the case in formula i. except that putin clearly was very enthusiastic about getting formula i into russia. he was very excited, it seems, about getting the grand prix to st petersburg in 2023, which, of course, now is not going to happen. stephen, let mejustjump into that, what you just said, because, you know, we had one race in russia and the government was obviously interested. but if you look what's happening in usa, you know, they're going to have two to three races a year now. you know, it's obvious that the governments are interested in the sport because the platform of formula i is great. look at what happened in saudi arabia last week, where the war was actually happening in the country or, in fact, 10km away from the racetrack. and, you know, nothing actually took place and the race has gone on, so it's not very objective, and... i take that point,
i do take that point, i hear what you say. butjust as a final question to you, do you now feel that as long as vladimir putin is pursuing this current course, it will be impossible for you to continue with your sporting career? i don't think it's right to speculate, because anything i say right now, it is a speculation. 0ne—and—a—half months ago, i couldn't imagine that the world would change so much. so, you know, it can change another step. and i genuinely don't know where it could go. we have to end there, but nikita mazepin, i thank you very much indeed forjoining me on hardtalk, thanks. thank you for your time.
hello. i think skies like this on thursday — large cumulus clouds — and over the high ground, certainly the possibility of some wintry showers. but wherever you are on thursday, there's a chance of catching a little bit of rain. but there'll be lengthy sunny spells, too, so it's not all bad. but the weather is unsettled, and you can see low pressures there moving off the atlantic in our direction. one such area of low pressure currently crossing the uk, giving a spell of some very windy weather from northern ireland through the irish sea, but particularly windy around the lancashire coastline around merseyside. northern parts of wales, gusts of wind here approaching 60 mph for a time during the early morning, and also across the highlands of scotland, the cold northerly wind bringing a covering of snow
across the hills there. now the temperatures early on thursday morning, three celsius in aberdeen, eight celsius in london. and then this is the picture through the day — the low pressure is out in the north sea by this stage, but on the backside of it, the winds are coming in from the north. so it's a cold wind, a really gusty wind, it really will feel very chilly. these are the gusts of wind approaching, 40—50 mph in places. so with temperatures of only around seven celsius, it really will feel very nippy on the north sea coast — only seven there in newcastle. and again, i said those showers could be wintry across the high ground. further south, i think the sunny spells will be most prolonged, so actually feeling pretty decent in the southwest. now this is the following night — so thursday night into friday — the possibility of some rain grazing the south of the country. here temperatures will be four celsius, but for the rest of us the following night, it will be quite frosty. so a chilly start to friday morning, the possibility of some rain along the southern
counties, and also the possibility of further wintry showers across scotland, mostly across the hills there. but i think, again, lots of sunny spells on the way, and disappointing temperatures between 8—12 celsius so below the average for the time of the year. here's the outlook, then, as we head over the next few days and into the weekend — it will calm down, i think saturday is actually not a bad day for most of us. sunday will become more unsettled once again. that's it from me, bye—bye.
welcome to newsday — reporting live from singapore — i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines. the bbc finds evidence of russian troops using ukrainian civilians as human shields in villages just north of kyiv. and they put them in that school, and they held them as human shields. thousands remain trapped in the city of mariupol — as the ukrainian government urges people in the east to flee. another record high for covid infections in china — as the shanghai lockdown starts to bite. and — we'll tell you about the dinosaurs that had a very bad day 66 million years ago.