A 15-year-old Russian karting champion has apologized for being “stupid” after appearing to give a Nazi salute on the podium after winning the opening round of the European Championship in Portugal.
Artem Severiukhin has been fired by his team, Ward Racing, while world motorsport governing body the FIA announced an investigation into the matter.
In video footage of the incident, Severiukhin, a Russian who was running under the Italian flag, punches his chest twice then appears to make the gesture, before dissolving into a fit of laughter.
On Monday, Severiukhin posted a video message on the Russian Automobile Federation’s Telegram channel in which he said, in quotes translated via Championat.ru: “I would like to apologize for what happened yesterday at the Championship of karting Europe.
“Standing on the podium, I performed a gesture that many perceived as a Nazi salute. But that’s not true – I never supported Nazism and consider it one of the most terrible crimes against humanity.
Explaining his bust as a common way of expressing his gratitude, he added: ‘I can’t explain how everything else happened. I know it’s my fault, I know I’m stupid and I’m ready to be punished. But please understand that I did not support nazism or fascism with this gesture.
Severiukhin was able to race under the Italian flag in order to circumvent sporting sanctions against his native country following its invasion of Ukraine.
The FIA confirmed an “immediate investigation” into what it considered Severiukhin’s “unacceptable conduct”, while his team Ward Racing said it would have no further relationship with the teenager.
In a statement, the Sweden-based team said: “Artem Severiukhin’s actions at the awards ceremony on April 10, 2022 were exclusively individual and in no way represent the views and values of Ward Racing.
“On the contrary, Ward Racing stands with the international community in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expresses its solidarity with the people who are suffering because of this unprovoked and horrific attack.
“Based on these considerations, Ward Racing sees no possibility of continued cooperation with Artem Severiukhin and will proceed with the termination of his racing contract.”