Haas F1 Drops Nikita Mazepin, Fittipaldi Steps In?

Haas F1 Drops Nikita Mazepin, Fittipaldi Steps In?
Nikita Mazepin driving the VF-22 at the last day of testing in Barcelona, Spain. February 25, 2022. Photo courtesy: Haas F1 Team.

The American team issued a statement through social media addressing the end of its partnership with title sponsor Uralkali, and Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, dropped, with immediate effect, on Saturday.

Haas F1 Team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin.”

Adding: “As with the rest of the Formula One community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”

On Thursday, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the American team decided to remove its Russian title partner branding from their challengers, running an all-white car livery ahead of the final day of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.

Uralkali is one of the largest producers and exporters of potash; the company’s non-executive director is Dimtry Mazepin, Nikita Mazepin’s father.

The 23-year-old was on the verge of starting his second Formula One season with the team. He took part in pre-season testing in Barcelona by the end of February, which set his return to the cockpit as he missed the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and post-season testing last December due to Covid-19.

At the time, Haas F1 Test and Reserve Driver Pietro Fittipaldi replaced the Russian at the wheel of the VF-21.

Rumor has it the Brazilian driver could be the chosen one to step into the 2022 season to partner Mick Schumacher full time, albeit a decision on a replacement for Mazepin is likely to be announced early next week.

Following the team’s statement, confirming he had lost his seat within the squad, the Russian driver reacted quickly, issuing a post on Instagram afterward.

I am very disappointed to hear that my F1 contract has been terminated,” Nikita said.

While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from the FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed, in order to continue, were completely ignored and, no process was involved in this unilateral step.

To those who have tried to understand, my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times. I will have more to say in the coming days.”

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS

Last Tuesday, the FIA officially communicated the World Motor Sport Council decisions concerning the situation in Ukraine.

Regarding Russian/Belarusian drivers, FIA’s ruling remarked: “Individual competitors and officials to participate in international/zone competitions only in their neutral capacity and under the “FIA flag” subject to specific commitment and adherence to the FIA’s principles of peace and political neutrality until further notice.”

The decision allows individual competitors, such as Mazepin, to continue his driver duties in a “neutral capacity.”

The next day, the UK motorsport governing body expressed a contrary position to the FIA, in response to the current situation in Ukraine, banning Russian license holders from competing in UK, meaning Mazepin would not be allowed to contest the British Grand Prix.

Either way, Haas F1 decided to part ways with the Russian driver.

On Thursday, Formula One announced the contract termination with the Russian Grand Prix promoter.

Formula 1 can confirm it has terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix promoter meaning Russia will not have a race in the future.”

The Russian Grand Prix was held from 2014 to 2021 at the Sochi Autodrom, though from 2023 onwards, the race would move to Igora Drive, next to Saint Petersburg, the country’s second-largest city.

The series will be back on track for the Official Pre-Season Testing on Thursday, March 10 in Bahrain.

Fittipaldi, 25, would be the natural replacement for Mazepin to run at next week’s Bahrain test alongside Schumacher.

Formula One season opener, the Bahrain Grand Prix, will be staged at the International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, from March 18-20.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and journalist, passionate about motorsport and tennis.Her articles are published in newspapers and international online publications.

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