The Russian attack on Ukraine has strongly impacted Haas F1 team so far. Immediately during the Barcelona tests brandings associated with title partner Uralkali, a Russian fertiliser company owned by Dmitry Mazepin, closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, were removed, while his son Nikita Mazepin took part in the final day of driving as usual.
On Saturday the American constructor confirmed with a statement issued on their social media that the partnership with Uralkali had been interrupted, as well as Mazepin's driver contract, much to his displeasure.
Team Owner Gene Haas has spoken on the topic, remarking that the overall financial stabitly of Haas won't be affected by the departure of such an important sponsor and talking about what to look for in a potential replacement to line up alongside Mick Schumacher at the first round of the new season, to be hold at Bahrain in two weeks time.
Haas explained to The Associated Press that Uralkali was dropped because of the strong criticism surrounding the attack launched by Putin, and that its place on the final livery will be replaces by the logo of Haas Automation, his machine tool building company:
“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.”
While the Russian partnership must have brought in a good amount of resources, it won't be an issue for the team to survive without it, as Haas added that the team's main sponsor has always been his company:
"Haas has always been the major, primary sponsor, I don’t know why people said it became a Russian team. Haas Automation was always on the car. We’re good. We’re fine. We’d like more money, of course, but we’re fine. This just gives us a bigger negative number.”
Brazilian-American Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time F1 Champion Emerson Fittipaldi will replace Mazepin in this week's test round.
Fittipaldi is the Team's official Reserve Driver and had his first taste of F1 in the final rounds of the 2020 championship, filling in for Romain Grosjean after the terrible crash he suffered in Bahrain.
But he isn't the only option in the long term, as Haas said that they're still evaluating a number of options, and looking for, if possible, a more experienced driver to partner Schumacher, in his second F1 campaign.
"We’re in the process of looking at several candidates, we’ll see who is available and what we have to deal with, but we’ll have somebody by Wednesday. Pietro will definitely be in it, that’s what he’s for, he’s the test driver.”
After Haas's worst season ever, not even managing to score a point and giving up on technical development in order to focus on preparing the new era at best, the Ferrari affiliated team banks on the VF-22 to bring the team back to the midfield fight.
The experience that could be brought by a new addition to the team might be the key to reach that achievement, as Haas added:
"I think we’re looking. I think we’d obviously like to get someone with a bit more actual experience. We just have to see what’s available.”