Formula 1 released a statement during its final day of testing at Circuit de Barcelona regarding the running of the 2022 Russian Grand Prix.
Formula 1 stated, “We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation. On Thursday evening Formula 1, the FIA, and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.”
Formula 1 also stated their position that the races are meant to unite people and bring nations together. This statement was supported by multiple Formula 1 drivers including Aston Martin driver and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel who stated he would boycott the Sochi race if it was to go ahead. Formula 1 seems to be following the lead of many other major sporting events. The International Tennis Federation released a statement that its Ukraine event this April is postponed, and its Russian events are cancelled indefinitely. UEFA announced that its Champions League final at the end of May would be moved from St. Petersburg to Paris.
In response to Formula 1’s statement, the official Russian Grand Prix promoter ANO "ROSGONKI" released its own statement to address fan concerns. The statement reads as follows.
“According to the official statement released by FORMULA 1 on 25/02/2022, due to the current political situation in the world, the FIA has decided to suspend preparations for the Formula 1 World Championship round in Russia previously scheduled to be held in Sochi in September 2022 because it is impossible to hold it in the current circumstances.”
Rosgonki continued, “The agreement between the official Russian Grand Prix promoter ANO ‘ROSGONKI’ and FORMULA 1 is suspended due to force majeure events.”
This statement by the Russian promoter indicates the contractual reasons allowing for Formula 1 to cancel the Russian Grand Prix without a breach of contract claim being brought by Rosgonki. So that begs the question, what is a force majeure clause?
A force majeure clause is a provision in a contract that allows for the allocation of risk of certain events that are out of the control of the parties. Courts have articulated these acts to include acts of God, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, epidemics, quarantines, terrorism, government acts, embargos, labor strikes and lock-outs, as well as other extreme events beyond the control of the parties. This clause acts to limit the duties of the parties when these majeure events prevent the party from performing the contract. Majeure events excuses one or both parties from performing their obligations under the contract.
This decision by Formula 1 to cite this provision in their contract with Rosgonki is a good lesson in contract law and proper drafting. Formula 1 seems to have properly relied on this clause citing Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine on the morning of Thursday February 24, 2022.
Rosgonki concluded its statement by ensuring fans that the purchased tickets to the 2022 Russian Grand Prix are not cancelled. Rosgonki stated their opinion that there is a continuing possibility that the race will still take place as previously scheduled. This statement is little comfort to those who have purchased seats for the Russian Grand Prix.
In the end, both statements by Formula 1 and Rosgonki leave the possibility of the race being restored and ran at the original place and time. Discussions will continue over the coming weeks as world conflicts affect professional sports events set to be hosted in Russia and Ukraine.
Justin Mader is a 3L at the University of New Hampshire School of Law where he serves as Lead Articles Editor for IDEA: The Law Review of the Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property. He can be reached on Twitter: @jmader19 and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/justin-mader-15a602119/.