Haas F1 Team boss Guenther Steiner says the livery of its 2021 car does not "circumvent" the rules banning the use of the Russian flag in international sport.
Haas presented on Thursday the new livery of its VF-21 which showcases the red, white and blue colors of its new title sponsor, Russian fertilizer giant Uralkali, whose majority shareholder is non other than Dmitry Mazepin, the father of Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin.
Russia is currently under a two-year ban that prevents its athletes from competing in international sports, a penalty imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and rooted in Russia's state-sponsored doping program.
The ruling implies that a sportsman or athlete's uniform may not bear the Russian flag while the country's national anthem will not be played at any official event venue, including those events sanctioned by the FIA, a member of WADA.
However, the use of Russia's colors on an athlete's uniform or an accessory - in this case a car - is permitted.
"We didn’t circumvent anything," said Steiner. "We came up with this livery already last year, before the ruling from WADA about the Russian flag.
"Obviously, we cannot display the Russian flag as the Russian flag but you can use the colors on the car. In the end, it’s the athlete which cannot display the Russian flag, not the team. The team is an American team."
Steiner stressed that Uralkali's lavish sponsorship, courtesy of Mazepin's father, does not imply that the Russian driver will receive any sort of preferential treatment, and he will "need to deliver" like any other driver.
"Nikita is the driver and Uralkali is the title [partner] of the team, it is called the Uralkali Haas F1 Team and therefore with that comes some benefits but it is the company which sponsors us," commented the Italian.
"That is the role they [Uralkali] play at the moment; Mr. Mazepin as you know owns the company or is the biggest/only shareholder of the company and his son drives for us.
"But in the end it is Uralkali which sponsors us and Nikita needs to deliver like any other driver."