Artem Severiukhin, a Russian go-karter has been sacked by his team for appearing to perform a Nazi salute on the podium after winning a race.
15-year-old Severiukhin was sacked by Ward Racing after the incident at the CIK-FIA European Karting Championship in Portugal on Sunday April 11.
Motorsports’ governing body, the FIA, are also investigating and could ban the young racer. Strict anti-war rules prevent Russian drivers from racing under their country’s flag and the anthem cannot be played during the post-race ceremonies.
As a result, Severiukhin raced under Italy’s flag where he performed the gesture before laughing. Severiukhin tapped his chest and held out his right arm, the same gesture used by Adolf Hitler and Italy’s fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.
Severiukhin however denied giving a Nazi salute, claiming that he was celebrating and waving at his friends and family.
In a statement released by the Russian automobile federation, he said;
“I would like to address everyone about Sunday’s situation on the podium.
“I won the round of the European Championship and was very happy.
“I’m from Russia. I thanked the team and my relatives from Russia.
“Someone saw a bad gesture in my actions, but it’s not. I just thanked them.
“I am Russian, I am from Russia and I stand by my country.”
The FIA said in a statement;
“The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile confirms that it has launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr Artem Severiukhin that occurred during the podium ceremony for the OK category at Round One of the 2022 FIA Karting European Championship at the Kartodromo International do Algarve in Portugal.
“The FIA will communicate shortly on the further steps that will be taken in this case.”
Swedish team Ward Racing swiftly terminated his contract and said his actions are considered a “manifestation of unsportsmanlike behaviour, an unacceptable violation of the ethical and moral sports codex”.
Ward Racing said in a statement;
“Ward Racing is deeply in shame of the pilot’s behaviour which it condemns in the strongest possible terms.
“The actions of Artem Severyukhin during the award ceremony on April 10, 2022 were exclusively individual and do not represent the views and values of Ward Racing in any manner.
“On the contrary, Ward Racing stands with the international community condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expresses its solidarity with the people suffering because of this unprovoked and horrific attack.
“Since the start of the ongoing war, our firm stance has been demonstrated with ‘No War’ helmets and stickers.
“In addition, we currently have three Ukrainian families traveling with us because they have no home to return to.
“Ward Racing accordingly condemns the personal actions of pilot Artem Severyukhin during the award ceremony on April 10, 2022 in the strongest possible terms, as it considers them a manifestation of unsportsmanlike behaviour, an unacceptable violation of the ethical and moral sports codex.
“With this statement, Ward Racing expresses its opinion, as well as the opinion of all athletes and staff of the Ward Racing team.
“On the basis of these considerations, Ward Racing sees no possibility for continued cooperation with Artem Severyukhin and will proceed with terminating his racing contract.
“Finally, Ward Racing would like to apologize to those who were hurt or distressed by the occurrence.
“It has long been and will remain a priority for Ward Racing to work for a more diverse, inclusive, and respectful racing climate.”