Why Formula 1 drivers and fans were left baffled by ballerina at the start of Russian Grand Prix
There were some slightly odd scenes to start the Russian Grand Prix, with a ballerina dancing on a piano as a confused set of Formula 1 drivers, and fans at home, watched on.
Pre-race ceremonies usually see drivers assemble at the front of the grid for national anthems, which has recently been dominated by who will take a knee, and who won’t.
The race was won by Lewis Hamilton in stunning circumstances as rain and the wrong tyre choice stole a maiden victory from Lando Norris, but confusion still remained from the race’s strange opening.
The music played out in Russia was not the country’s national anthem, due to their global sporting ban imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
After widespread doping violations at the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics were uncovered, WADA announced a four-year ban on athletes representing the country at world championship events, including Formula 1.
The ban was reduced to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2020, but its effects have been noted throughout the current F1 season.
The ban means Russian athletes cannot use the country’s flag, the Russian national anthem cannot be played, and competitors are restricted from using any kind of national symbols or even mentioning their nationality.
Today’s pre-race scene was one of the more bizarre results of the ban, with a ballerina dancing on top of a grand piano that had been wheeled out onto the track, to the tune of Tchaikovsky.
The scenes left viewers at home utterly confused, probably as well as the drives, but there have been incidents noted throughout the 2021 championship.
Backmarker Nikita Mazepin is the only Russian driver on the current grid, and caused some confusion early on in testing, with a white space next to his name where a driver’s flag would normally be.
His new team Haas later caused even more controversy by painting their car in the colours of the Russian flag.
Mazepin’s father, Dmitry, has helped keep the American team out of financial trouble, by backing them with his fertilizer company, Uralkali.
That resulted in the white, blue and red striped paint job, which was investigated by WADA, but later cleared.
Unfortunately for the Mazepins though, their sponsorship hasn’t gotten too much exposure, with the team comfortably the slowest on the grid.
However, should some chaos unfold and Mazepin somehow find himself in the top three of a race, the sport could see one of its most awkward podiums, with neither a flag nor national anthem on show.
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