By: TJ Dhir
Nikita Mazepin is a Formula 1 driver for Haas F1 Team. But even before he stepped into the F1 paddock, there were calls for him to lose his seat. Over the past few years, Mazepin has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. His record in junior racing categories isn’t flattering, his driving style is quite dangerous, and he has made social mistakes that would ruin most people’s careers. To fully explain why people want him out of F1, I will look at all three points in-depth.
Junior Racing Career
Mazepin started racing cars in 2015 in Formula Renault, failing to impress any of the races he participated in. He entered three racing competitions, participated in 39 races, and only picked up one podium finish. He finished 18th in the Toyota Racing Series held in the winter and 12th in Formula Renault. Not a great start to his career, but drivers tend to take a season to adjust to cars after go-karts.
After two more unconvincing seasons in Formula 3, his move to GP3 in 2018 was a big success, scoring 198 points, four wins, eight podiums, and even picking up a pole position. His haul was good enough for 2nd place in the championship, losing the title by a respectable 16 points to the late Anthoine Hubert.
Naturally, Mazepin moved to Formula 2, but his first season in the main feeder series to F1 was awful, as he scored only 11 points from 22 races. Finishing 3rd in the F3 Asian Championship over the winter, setting him up for what should have been an assault on the F2 title. His return was average, finishing 5th, scoring 164 points, two wins, and six podiums. Despite his decent return, Mazepin finished well behind fellow F2 graduates Yuki Tsunoda and future teammate Mick Schumacher.
So far, he hasn’t done enough to convince people that he deserves a Formula 1 seat, despite having enough points to qualify for the required Super License. Several drivers in F2 would have been much more deserving of the seat. One example is Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman, who finished ahead of Mazepin in the championship.
Mazepin’s driving has been called dangerous. Dangerous drivers have been in F1 for a long time, but Mazepin’s level of dangerous driving is something the F1 community hasn’t seen since Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna took each other out in the 1989 and 1990 Japanese Grands Prix. In last year’s feature race at Sakhir, Mazepin was weaving in and out all over the track. He almost took three drivers out on three separate occasions to try and win the race. Tsunoda won the race, and Mazepin picked up penalty points, leaving him one shy of an automatic race ban. The FIA cleared his penalty points as soon as he participated in F1 testing. Allowing someone’s penalty points not to be transferred from Formula 2 to Formula 1 should not be permitted to happen. As penalty points are an accurate representation of a driver’s demeanour. If they go away, the FIA is effectively exonerating Mazepin for previous infractions he committed.
The main reason people want Mazepin out of Formula 1 has to do with his off-track demeanour. Mazepin has committed multiple high-profile social faux pas, showing that his moral compass is not where it should be. Some of the notable indiscretions include punching Ilott in 2016 after Ilott blocked his tyres and pressuring one female fan for her to send inappropriate pictures to him in exchange for an entry into the paddock. Mazeping reacted to a racist comment about Tsunoda with laughing emojis and has defended his fans’ racist behaviour.
But the worst example of his off-track behaviour came just days after Haas announced him as one of their drivers for this season. On December 9, Mazepin posted an Instagram story that showed him inappropriately touching an unknown woman without her consent. Mazepin quickly removed the video, and he posted an apology which failed to garner him much support. Haas called his actions “abhorrent” and stated that they would deal with the matter internally. Nine days later, Mazepin deleted all his social media posts, including the apology.
Mazepin ended up keeping his seat to the rage of many fans in the motorsport community. The hashtag #WeSayNoToMazepin became trending worldwide, as the motorsport community felt that Mazepin essentially got away with a slap on the wrist. Although Mazepin says he is “not proud of it,” his reputation has already been shattered. The fact many people expressed joy on social media when he spun out of the Bahrain Grand Prix just a few hundred metres into his F1 race debut says it all.
Why Mazepin is Still in Formula 1
Despite all his faults, Mazepin is driving for Haas in 2021, and a big reason for that is thanks to his billionaire father. Dmitry Mazepin is the core shareholder and chairman of Uralchem Group, a Russian manufacturer of a wide range of chemical products. Dmitry has primarily financed his son’s career, with the Mazepins paying their way into Formula 1. Because of this, Nikita has been accused of being little more than a “pay driver.”
Pay drivers are nothing new, as there is a long history of drivers paying for F1 seats starting from the early days of the F1 Championship. It also worked out well for Haas, as the team was begging for new investment after the Rich Energy fiasco of 2019 and the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the team. Haas can go racing with new investments, but the team finds itself in yet another PR crisis. With many comments on the team’s social media posts still antagonizing the Russian driver.
Had Nikita behaved appropriately, his entrance to the F1 paddock might have been somewhat accepted, given Haas’ financial situation. But his off-track behaviour leaves a lot to be desired, and neither the Mazepins nor Haas are doing themselves any favours by letting him race in F1.
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