Nikita Mazepin turned in probably the worst season in Formula 1 history last year, a grim spectacle at times, and, though he kept it, Mazepin deserved to lose his seat on merit, not to mention the other stuff. Now, after Haas disappeared its biggest sponsor on Thursday following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the team says that Mazepin’s role with the team is also in question.
Mazepin’s father is Dmitry Mazepin, deputy chair of Uralkali, a Russian fertilizer producer that is, or likely was, Haas’s biggest sponsor. With that in doubt, Guenther Steiner, Haas’s team principal, says that Nikita Mazepin’s future with the team is up in the air too.
“We removed (the branding) yesterday — we have to sort out all the legal stuff, which I cannot speak about, next week,” Steiner said. “We made the decision yesterday with our team partners that this is what we’re going to do. I need to work on the rest next week.
“Yes, (Mazepin’s future) needs to be resolved. Not everything depends from us here what is happening, there’s governments involved — I have no power over them — and we also need to see how the situation develops in Ukraine.
“He (Mazepin) puts a tough face on it. For sure it bothers him, because it’s his own country, Russia. About guarantees, there are no guarantees anywhere — as I said before we need to see how this whole thing develops.”
Mazepin’s seat is closely tied to the Uralkali sponsorship but it is not a certainty he would be dropped immediately. Should he lose his drive before the next test in Bahrain, Pietro Fittipaldi is likely to test for the team alongside Mick Schumacher.
Steiner went on to say that, with or without Uralkali, the Haas team is on solid footing financially, and fully intends to compete this year, while ESPN says that Michael Andretti, who has his own aspirations for Formula 1 in 2024, could be a Uralkali replacement. The Guardian, meanwhile, points out that Mazepin’s seat is also in question because of possible visa bans on Russians, meaning he may not be able to enter, much less compete in, most countries with Formula 1 races.
Few, at any rate, will miss Mazepin if he goes, and Formula 1 races would also probably be safer as a result. Well, his teammate Mick Schumacher might, just by virtue of Mazepin being such easy competition.