Former Haas F1 driver Nikita Mazepin has explained his version of the events that led to his departure from the team.
Haas announced on Saturday that they had terminated the contract of the Russian driver. His future was the subject of much speculation since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The team also terminated the title partnership with Uralkali. The owner of the company is Mazepin’s father, Dmitry. He is a Russian billionaire with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The FIA ruled that Mazepin, as a Russian athlete, could race under a neutral flag. However, after that decision, Motorsport UK announced that all Russian drivers would not compete in UK events. Therefore, Mazepin could not race at the British Grand Prix.
In his debut season, the Russian did not record a single point in an uncompetitive Haas car. His highest finish was 14th at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which saw 16 drivers finish.
What did Haas and Mazepin say?
Haas wrote in a statement: “Haas F1 Team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin.
“As with the rest of the Formula 1 community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”
Team owner Gene Haas told the Associated Press: “There was a lot of intense criticism about the Ukrainian invasion and it was just getting overwhelming. We can’t deal with all that. Our other sponsors can’t deal with all that.”
Shortly after the team’s statement, Mazepin broke his silence on Twitter. He said that he was willing to accept conditions proposed by the FIA to continue to race in Formula 1.
The code of conduct, amongst other points, states the banning of all Russian and Belarusian symbols, colours or flags in public and on social media. Any comments in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or are prejudicial to the interests of the FIA, are also forbidden.
Mazepin explains chain of events that occurred prior to termination
Speaking in a press conference on Wednesday, Mazepin explained what happened before it was confirmed that he would be leaving the team.
He said (as quoted by Cezary Gutowski): “I was planning to start as a neutral athlete. The FIA allowed it.
“I had no problem with that, but the night before my contract was terminated, additional directives came out and as we started to analyse them, I got a message the next morning that the contract was cancelled. I was fired.”
He then added: “I heard about my kick from Haas, like everyone else, from the press. I didn’t deserve it, I was very disappointed with how it played.
“I haven’t spoken to Guenther [Steiner, team principal] since I left Barcelona on the third day of testing. Guenther gave me no information about what decision the team is going to take, aside from the information that he has been giving my manager up to March 4.”
Mazepin has also announced the creation of a fund to support athletes who, as the driver himself described, “for political reasons have found themselves unable to compete”. It is titled ‘We Compete As One’. It will be funded by Uralkali, who have announced, as reported by Autosport, that they are seeking sponsorship repayment from Haas.
Who will replace Mazepin at Haas?
It was announced by Haas on Wednesday evening that Kevin Magnussen would be replacing Mazepin at the team. The Danish driver drove for the team between 2017 and 2020. Furthermore, he helped the team to finish fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2017.
Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet originally reported the news on Wednesday that Haas were exploring a return for their former driver.
After the contract was confirmed, Magnussen told Haas’s official website: “I was obviously very surprised but equally very excited to receive the call from Haas F1 Team.
“I was looking in a different direction regarding my commitments for 2022 but the opportunity to return to compete in Formula 1, and with a team I know extremely well, was simply too appealing.
“I’ve been briefed as much as possible on the development of the VF-22 and the potential in the package. There’s work to do but I’m excited to be a part of it. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car in Bahrain.”
Magnussen will drive the car for the first time during the Bahrain test, which begins on Thursday. Test driver Pietro Fittipaldi will start proceedings on Thursday afternoon.
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