‘Max Verstappen’s 2022 world title not valid’

Vitaly Petrov has called for the "unacceptable" bans imposed on Russian athletes to be lifted in the interest of sporting integrity

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Ex-formula 1 driver Vitaly Petrov has sensationally claimed that Max Verstappen‘s 2022 world title is invalid.

The Dutchman secured his second drivers’ championship in dominant fashion, but Petrov believes all sporting honours achieved while Russian athletes were banned are tainted.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a number of sporting authorities were quick to impose sanctions, including the FIA.

After a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, it was decided that the Russian Grand Prix would be removed from the calendar – it was later announced F1 would not return to the Sochi Autodrom – but that Russian drivers could continue to compete under a neutral flag.

Despite that compromise, Nikita Mazepin, the sole Russian on the grid ahead of the 2022 season, was relieved of his duties by Haas.

Now, Petrov, who raced in F1 for three years from 2010 to 2012, has called for all bans to be lifted and claimed all sporting accomplishments in the meantime are illegitimate.

Speaking to Russian media, Petrov said: “Without Russia, I don’t consider a single champion or Olympic title to be valid. We have to stop being afraid of our people and bring Russia back into world sport.

“For me, it’s not acceptable. I don’t understand at all this absurdity of imposing certain opinions on people. We can use the current situation as an impetus for the development of motorsport, training young people to guide them further into the future.”

Vitaly Petrov (right) earned his only podium in F1 at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix | Paul Gilham/Getty Images

He added: “I understand it’s difficult, but no one should give up. This isolation will not last forever.

“I myself have wanted to race in Formula 1 all my life, so I understand young drivers very well. But they have to be patient, practice and not stop believing, so when the opportunity to come back comes, we’ll all be ready.”

As it stands, Robert Schwartzman is the only driver with ties to Russia contracted to an F1 team; he will serve as a reserve for Ferrari in 2023.

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