Nikita Mazepin has not left the headlines since being announced as one of Haas’ two drivers for the 2021 F1 season. The Russian rookie has had to learn the hard way that actions, both on and off the track, have consequences. The latest criticism heading the way of Mazepin is the fallout from being accused by Antonio Giovinazzi of breaking 'gentleman's agreements' between the drivers. Nevertheless, Nikita Mazepin says that in Formula 1 ‘it’s every man for himself’!
The latest event which put Nikita Mazepin under the spotlight, took place during Q1 of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix qualifying. In an effort to gain a slipstream, before overtaking Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo, Nikita Mazepin positioned his Haas right on the back of the Alfa Romeo driver. This move from the Russian driver required Giovinazzi to abandon his final Q1 run which was fatal to his chance of progressing to Q2. The comments of Alfa Romeo’s Italian racer, after the event, showed how unhappy Giovinazzi was by Mazepin’s antics.
"It's quite clear, we respect each other on this, starting the lap, and he didn't respect this," said Giovinazzi. "This is really not correct for a qualifying lap. I didn't make my last lap."
After qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Nikita Mazepin was quick to defend his actions:
"When I arrived to the straight down to turn 17 (penultimate corner), I saw five or six cars going very slowly," Mazepin told the media. "The first car leading was one of the Mercedes cars. I believe he was going very slow, not sure why. I was obviously, in the queue, respecting the drivers’ agreement and then when I got to turn 17, my engineer said that 'there is 10 seconds to go, you need to start to push now…Ricciardo and Russell arrived on the back of me, because they wanted to go, so I started to accelerate and Antonio also accelerated. I was then very close to him on the main straight and my only option was to go forward."
Now, most recently, Nikita Mazepin has doubled-down on his action as shown by his remarks in an interview with the Russian sports broadcaster Match TV:
"Over the past two weekends, this standard of behaviour has surprised me. Each of us has a team, who give us the instructions to follow. On both occasions, I followed the instructions but there are some unspoken rules. Yes, I'm still learning. But I crossed the line two seconds before the end of the session. If I had stayed behind him, I would not have had time for another lap. It's unpleasant that it happened, but here it's every man for himself," Mazepin added.
During the interview, Nikita Mazepin also spoke out on the fact that he knows every move he makes is being analysed:
"And everyone is watching you. The slightest misstep has big consequences. Formula 1 is a very difficult sport, but when you close the visor, you don't have time to think about anything else," he said.
In the interview with Russian television, the discussion turned to how Mazepin is preparing for the next race at Portimao seeing how he is unable to prepare for the upcoming Grand Prix in a proper F1 team simulator. "We don't have a simulator in our team, so we have to use simulators that most professional drivers have at home," Mazepin revealed.
What followed, was an indication that Nikita Mazepin does not see himself on a level playing field with his teammate Mick Schumacher. As a result of being a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy there is every chance that opportunities are open to the son of the seven-time F1 Champion Michael Schumacher which are not available to Mazepin. So, does he think Mick Schumacher will gain access to Ferrari’s technological riches ahead of Portimao?
"Probably, but as I am not a member of that youth team, I do not have such a privilege…I will prepare for Portimao here in Moscow."
I found the Match TV interview very interesting and wondered whether it is the first stage of a PR turnaround for Nikita Mazepin. Are fans now expected to view Mazepin as an underdog and a racer disadvantaged over his more illustrious teammate? Well, for a man who is the son of a billionaire that would be quite a feat but that is why we have PR.
Whether fans like him or loathe him, Nikita Mazepin is going nowhere and nor it seems is his ruthless nature.