(Bloomberg) -- Nikita Mazepin, the Russian Formula 1 racing driver dropped from his team following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, lost a bid to be allowed to enter the UK ahead of the British Grand Prix and hold talks with teams about salvaging his career.

Mazepin was refused entry to Britain, where some 70% of the sport’s racing teams are based, by a London judge on Thursday. He’d argued he needed to start potential negotiations ahead of his full court challenge to the sanctions later in July, saying any delay would be “too late” to allow him to restart racing for the 2024 season.

Mazepin was sanctioned last year alongside his father Dmitry, the founder of fertilizer maker UralChem JSC. Dmitry Mazepin was one of the last few Russian businessmen to meet with Putin before the invasion, according to the Kremlin website. 

Lawyers for the UK said that allowing Mazepin entry — in one of the earliest Russia-related sanctions challenges to get to court — would damage “the perceived robustness of UK sanctions.” They said there was nothing to prevent Mazepin’s agent from holding talks in the meantime.

Mazepin’s lawyer Hugo Keith had countered in a filing that his client’s “hopes of salvaging any future as a professional Formula 1 driver hinge on his ability to negotiate a seat with a team for the 2024 season.” 

Keith argued that if racing teams saw that Mazepin was allowed to enter the country — ahead of the full sanctions challenge — then at least during those six weeks , “they would know that they are not wasting their time.” Racing teams have indicated they would expect to meet Mazepin in person and to evaluate his current performance before they could consider him for the 2024 season, Keith said. 

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that allowing Mazepin to enter Britain would undermine the effectiveness of its foreign policy by taking the force out of the restrictions. It would also increase the risk that Mazepin could try to circumvent sanctions, the government’s lawyers said.

The sanctions encourage Mazepin “to put pressure on his father to speak out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine” as well as reduce the risk that Dmitry may try to move assets into Nikita’s name, they said. Above all, there’s no certainty Mazepin would get a racing seat, one of the lawyers Jason Pobjoy said. “It’s all just hopes and dreams, pure speculation.”

Putin Meeting

The tycoon had a one-on-one meeting with Putin in November to discuss the fertilizer market, which Mazepin used as an opportunity to complain about the sanctions and thank him for his support.

But Nikita himself never spoke about the war publicly, and called it “a political conflict” in an Instagram post about half a year ago, where criticized the “politicization” of the sport.

Mazepin was dumped by the Haas team following the outbreak of the war and hasn’t driven in Formula 1 since. Haas also ended its sponsorship with Uralkali PJSC, the Russian potash producer controlled by Mazepin’s father at the time.

Mazepin’s sanctions designation was rushed, part of a misguided attempt to add hundreds of individuals in batches and discriminated against Russian citizens, Keith said.

Read More: Meet the Fertilizer Tycoon at Core of Kremlin Grain Talks

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