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Mazepin questions 'values' in F1 amid Haas/Uralkali sponsorship dispute

Nikita Mazepin says Formula 1’s values need to be put under the spotlight, in the wake of his former Haas team’s dispute with Uralkali over paid sponsorship money.

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1, Nikita Mazepin, Haas F1

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The Russian driver was dropped by the Haas team on the eve of the season as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Haas felt it was untenable to continue with him and his backers, so also ended its title sponsorship arrangement with the Uralkali company run by Mazepin’s father Dmitry.

Immediately after the sponsorship split, Uralkali demanded that Haas return payments for the 2022 season that it had made in advance since the deal was not continuing.

However, Haas has responded and made clear that it will not pay back the $13 million (USD) – and furthermore has demanded an extra $8.6 million in compensation for loss of profits.

The breakdown in relations with Haas makes a reunion unlikely in the future, but that has not stopped Mazepin hoping he can find a way back in to F1.

However, before he says he can consider his options for the future, he reckons that questions need to be asked about how teams are allowed to behave.

Speaking to CNN’s Quest means business programme, Mazepin played down any suggestion that his political neutrality over the Russian war would be held against him in a potential F1 comeback.

“Everybody has a right to speak or not to speak and the FIA, the highest governing body, has enabled me to compete as long as I'm neutral,” he said.

“But I would say the biggest issue here is coming back to the sport where teams are allowed to be keeping sponsorship money without fulfilling the contract. And even asking for more, even though they say they don't want money from Russia. So I'm not sure, but the sport values need to be evaluated for me after this.”

Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-22

Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-22

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Mazepin feels that he has more to give in F1, with his rookie season in 2021 coinciding with Haas struggling with an uncompetitive car.

Asked about his prospects of finding a grand prix seat in the future, Mazepin said: “It's difficult to say at this moment in time, because I'm very wary that my issue is that I've lost a job.

“I was trying to get to F1 for 17 years and then I eventually got there. But it's a very minor issue if you compare to the big things that are going on in the world right now.

“Of course, I would love to get back to the sport. I feel that I've got a lot of unfinished business there. But I need to wait until things cool down. And I don't even know who I can get back to because, you know, Haas has obviously done what they did with playing not the cleanest game, in my opinion. But it's different for me.”

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While Mazepin is reluctant to comment on his views on Russia’s Ukraine invasion, he admits the situation is ‘painful’ for him to observe.

“My view is that, whatever is going on right now, and I can only see a very small bit from where I am in Moscow, it's very painful,” he explained. “And I definitely feel it.

“I've been living for 23 years, and I was living in a very calm world. But as to my official position, I've said many times that it's very important to be neutral for me, because I'm an athlete. And I feel that it's important to be able to be neutral. Even for that, I have created a foundation that will help athletes stay neutral in principle.” 

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