Haas have dropped Nikita Mazepin following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now speculation is rife as to who they will get to replace him.
Since Vladimir Putin’s decision to declare war on his neighbours, various sports have taken drastic measures. In boxing, all four major sanctioning bodies have clubbed together to make sure no title bouts take place in the country. While other sports such as badminton, athletics and basketball, have banned Russian athletes altogether.
The pressure on governing bodies and companies worldwide is becoming insurmountable. And now the axe has fallen on Nikita Mazepin.
His former team, Haas, have terminated his contract with immediate effect. In addition, they’ve also cut ties with their sponsors Uralkali who are owned by the F1 driver’s father, who himself has ties to the Russian president.
They released the following 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 One community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine. We wish for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.
“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.”
Their call means that there are no Russian competitors signed up to race in F1 for the upcoming season.
Who is Nikita Mazepin?
The 23-year-old began carting in 2003, before switching to car racing and impressively rising through the ranks.
He participated in Lower formulae before moving to Formula 3 European Championship, where he had his fair share of controversy. He punched Callum Ilott in the face after the Brit blocked him, which resulted in a ban. But he came into his own the following season, making the podium on three occasions.
In 2018, he continued his success in the GP3 Series. His sublime performances earned him the most wins of any other driver in the competition.
Furthermore, he helped his team win the championship. This ultimately helped him progress to FIA Formula 2 Championship before he finally made it into the big time. Mazepin achieved his ultimate ambition of securing a place in F1.
In a ‘pinch me’ turn of events, he ended up partnering Mick Schumacher, the son of the legendary Michael Schumacher. However, his first season didn’t go as planned. During the campaign in which he finished 21st, he crashed out during his debut lap and received a five-second penalty for ignoring blue flags.
However, his form improved throughout the year. The youngster was expected to capitalise on his momentum and become an instrumental part of the team next season. But that will no longer be the case.
Who will replace Nikita Mazepin?
With the Russian out of the picture, speculation has arisen as to who Haas will choose to take his place. The team have announced that they will reveal their decision next week.
As per the Daily Mail, their reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will step up to the plate. The grandson of two-time F1 King Emerson Fittipaldi is looking to continue his upwards trajectory in the sport.
He raced for the team on two occasions in 2020. But now, he has an opportunity to produce some performances reminiscent of his brilliant Grandad.
However, according to ESPN, there are plenty of other drivers in the mix. Antonio Giovinazzi, who currently operates as the reserve driver at Ferrari has shown glimmers of elite-level potential during his time in F1.
Giovinazzi has been on the end of criticism for his lack of consistency. But in a career-best performance, he managed to use a usually uncompetitive Alfa Romero car to finish in fifth at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
He’s currently under contract with Formula E side Dragon Penske. But he could likely make his move to Haas via a release clause.
The sports company also believe that there’s another good option on the table. Although an F1 return isn’t likely, some feel that a Kevin Magnussen reunion with Haas isn’t off the cards. The workhorse has gained popularity for his hardworking attitude. But despite representing the team for three years, he didn’t have the backing to continue. The driver left the team on good terms, so there’s a chance that he’d snap up an opportunity to go back. But, having signed up to compete in this year’s World Endurance Championship for Peugeot Sport, this could be in jeopardy.
Although fans eagerly anticipate the news, all they can do is wait, while Haas take all the possible variables into account.
Featured Image Credit: Getty