15-year-old Severiukhin appeared to perform a Nazi salute during the podium ceremony after winning the opening round of the FIA Karting European Championship OK category on Sunday at Portimao. 

Severiukhin pounded his chest before raising his right arm and proceeding to laugh as he celebrated his victory. 

After footage was widely circulated and condemned on social media on Monday, motorsport’s governing body the FIA said it had launched an immediate investigation into the incident. 

"The FIA confirms it has launched an immediate investigation into the unacceptable conduct of Mr Artem Severiukhin that occurred during the podium ceremony for the OK category at Round 1 of the 2022 FIA Karting European Championship at Kartodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal," read an FIA statement. 

"The FIA will communicate shortly on the further steps that will be taken in this case.”

Severiukhin, who races under an Italian licence because of the ban on Russian athletes competing in FIA-sanctioned championships, has denied that he gave a Nazi salute. 

“My name is Artem Severiukhin. I would like to apologise to everybody for what happened yesterday at the European karting championship,” he said in a video apologising for his actions. 

“While stood on the podium, I made a gesture that many perceive as a Nazi salute. That was not the case. I have never supported Nazism and see it as one of the most abhorrent crimes against humanity.

“I was racing under the Italian license, won the race under the Italian flag, and guys below the podium were showing to me that in Italy in such cases it’s customary to beat your chest, around where the heart is, expressing gratitude. I just wanted to do that gesture.

“How all the rest happened, I cannot explain. I know I’m guilty, know I’m stupid, and am ready to suffer the consequences.

“I ask to be understood in that there was no support for Nazism or fascism, no desire to insult the spectators, the drivers, the fans, the team, and the viewers of the broadcast. Please forgive me.”

Severiukhin sacked by Ward Racing 

Severiukhin’s team, Swedish outfit Ward Racing, condemned his actions and confirmed it plans to terminate his contract.

"Ward Racing is deeply in shame of the pilot's behaviour which it condemns in the strongest possible terms," it said in a statement. "Action will promptly be taken accordingly.

"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. 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 accordingly condemns the personal actions of pilot Artem Severiukhin during the award ceremony on April 10, 2022 in the strongest possible terms, as it considers them a manifestation of unsportsmanlike behaviour, an unacceptable violation of the ethical and moral sports codex.

"With this statement, Ward Racing expresses its opinion, as well as the opinion of all athletes and staff of the Ward Racing team. On the basis of these considerations, Ward Racing sees no possibility for continued cooperation with Artem Severiukhin and will proceed with terminating his racing contract.

“Finally, Ward Racing would like to apologise to those who were hurt or distressed by the occurrence. It has long been and will remain a priority for Ward Racing to work for a more diverse, inclusive and respectful racing climate.”