• Artem Severiukhin, 15, burst out laughing after the gesture at the award ceremony
  • He later denied making the Nazi salute and said he has never supported Nazism
  • Ward Racing, the team he was competing for, announced its decision to terminate his contract

A teenage karting driver from Russia has been kicked out of his team for celebrating his recent victory by making what appeared to be a Nazi salute.

Artem Severiukhin, 15, won round one of the FIA Karting European Championship in Portimão, Portugal, on Sunday. He was filmed on the podium banging his chest twice before stretching his right arm out during the awarding ceremony. The go-kart driver then burst out laughing while the Italian national anthem played in the background.

Severiukhin was racing in the championship under the Italian flag after the motorsport's governing body — the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) — had imposed a ban on Russian drivers competing in the championship amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to Sky News.

Ward Racing, the privately owned Swedish team that the teenager was competing for, said it is "deeply in shame" of Severiukhin's behavior and is terminating his contract.

"The actions of Artem Severiukhin 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," its statement read. "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."

"Ward Racing sees no possibility for continued cooperation with Artem Severiukhin and will proceed with terminating his racing contract," it noted further.

Severiukhin posted a video on Instagram in which he denied making the Nazi salute after questions were raised about his gesture. He said he was celebrating with friends and family standing opposite the podium after winning his first race of the season in the OK category, in which drivers between the ages of 11 and 15 compete.

"I want to apologize to everyone for what happened yesterday during the European Karting Championships," the teenager said in the clip, according to Sky News. "Standing on the podium I made a gesture which many perceived as a Nazi salute. This is not true. I have never supported Nazism and consider it one of the worst crimes against humanity."

"I know I am a fool and I'm ready to be punished but please believe that there was no intention in my actions. There was no support of Nazism or racism," he said further, as per CNN.

The FIA announced Monday that an investigation has been launched into the teenager's "unacceptable conduct."

The Russian Automobile Federation acknowledged the incident, noting that it considers "even an accidental manifestation of fascism and Nazism in Russian motorsport and among Russian athletes" unacceptable, according to CNN.

Representative image Credit: Pixabay / Michal Jarmoluk