Nikita Mazepin finished Sunday’s Portugal Grand Prix over a minute behind 18th-placed Nicholas Latifi. Obviously, among the cars that finished, Mazepin was dead last.
This is all very funny but also increasingly cringe. Take Mazepin’s radio at the end of the race, for example, in which he and his race engineer try to convince themselves that they had a good day. That was despite Mazepin being shown a number of blue flags throughout the race, or orders to let faster cars behind him pass since he was at least a lap down. On lap 45, he failed to heed one of the blues and held up Sergio Pérez, earning Mazepin a five-second penalty.
Still, his team tried to make lemons from lemonade when it was all over.
Race engineer: OK, Maz, that’s the checker. That’s the checker. It’s a difficult race with all of the blues. But on your stints your pace was matching Latifi and [Mick Schumacher]. A really good step from last race. Unfortunately with Pérez we did get a five second penalty ... But good race from you mate. You drove well in that race.
About the incident with Pérez, Mazepin said after the race:
“It’s pretty simple, totally my mistake on that,” he said. “I was converted to a Plan C in the middle of the race – I was the only ones to do a two-stop – and to be honest I expected to go out on my own.
“I didn’t really get a warning from the team, but no excuses on this. It is just my fault. I apologised to Checo already.”
The Plan C in this case was Mazepin going in for a second pit stop to switch from hard tires to soft tires, to get him more experience on softs with no one in front of him. That also seemed to be an admission that this season is less about competition for Mazepin than about training, though most people would say that is what Formula 2 and Formula 3 are for.
And while Mazepin does not seem so bad that he is a risk to himself or others, I can’t imagine this is very much fun. Last year, he was a nobody in Formula 2 who actually won a couple of races, while this year he is a sort-of-somebody in Formula 1 who has to explain after every race why, once again, he fucked up and finished last. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, at some point that gets old.