Readers should be aware that this article includes mentions of sexual assault
Russian driver Nikita Mazepin is set to race in his first Formula 1 season this year for Haas. However, even though the season is not yet underway, Mazepin has not got off to the best start; being deemed the “villain of Formula 1” is never a great reputation to have before you have even set foot in the paddock.
But many believe that this title is well deserved, since the 21-year-old posted a video at the beginning of December on his Instagram story of himself groping an evidently intoxicated women in the back of a car, attempting to grab her thighs and breasts whilst she tries unsuccessfully to fend him off.
Haas have received relentless pressure to drop Mazepin, and give his seat to someone who better fits the ethos of the sport. Initially, the team described the incident as “abhorrent”, but later concluded that the situation had “been dealt with internally and no further comment shall be made.” This left many fans dissatisfied, as they felt that the situation had not been sufficiently dealt with, especially since the girl in question uploaded Instagram stories which show that she was clearly not okay with Mazepin’s behaviour.
This apology has since been deleted, and it has not prevented the hashtag ‘#WeSayNoToMazepin’ from trending on Twitter over a month after the video initially surfaced
Mazepin himself also issued an apology on Twitter after deleting the video from his Instagram story, which read “I would like to apologise for my recent actions both in terms of my own inappropriate behaviour and the fact that it was posted onto social media. I am sorry for the offense I have rightly caused and to the embarrassment I have brought to Haas F1 Team. I have to hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula 1 driver and I acknowledge I have let myself and many people down. I promise I will learn from this.” However, this apology has since been deleted, and it has not prevented the hashtag ‘#WeSayNoToMazepin’ from trending on Twitter over a month after the video initially surfaced.
More recently, Guenther Steiner has reportedly stated that Mazepin “needs to grow up,” and we can only hope that he does just that. Steiner released a full statement updating fans on the situation: “We are not saying this was okay and letting him get away with it. We are educating him and will keep on educating him for his future. There will be consequences if this or something similar happens again. We have put things in place that will help him to get better and make sure this doesn’t happen again; not to make the same mistake again, because this was a clear mistake. And he took responsibility, which for me was very important. This is not done and dusted, this is an ongoing thing. We are not moving on like nothing ever happened.”
Mazepin is the son of a billionaire father, Dmitry Mazepin, the chairman of Russian chemical giant Uralchem. He has an estimated net worth of $7.1 billion USD. People would therefore be correct to assume that Mazepin is a pay driver […]
Another reason that fans of the sport have not taken well to Mazepin is the fact that he is a pay driver. Pay drivers have always had a somewhat negative reputation. The most recent and notable example of this is Lance Stroll. If you were to talk to a group of Formula 1 fans about the Canadian Aston Martin driver, it’s likely that the majority of them would say that he only has his seat because of his billionaire father, Lawrence Stroll, who owns the team. Likewise, Mazepin is the son of a billionaire father, Dmitry Mazepin, the chairman of Russian chemical giant Uralchem. He has an estimated net worth of $7.1 billion USD.
People would therefore be correct to assume that Mazepin is a pay driver, which is no surprise, as Haas are just one of the many teams who are experiencing financial struggles in the face of the Coronavirus crisis. Their sponsorship deal with Rich Energy was also unprecedently terminated midway through the 2019 season. In Formula 1, money talks, and the $24 million USD payment courtesy of Dmitry Mazepin would be difficult to ignore. This led to a fan on Twitter twisting the sport’s ‘#WeRaceAsOne’ motto to read ‘#WeRaceForMoney’.
Mazepin has history of dangerous and reckless driving. […] The FIA judged Mazepin “wholly at fault” for the Russian Grand Prix crash that hospitalised both himself and Nobuharu Matsushita.
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has defended the team’s decision to give Mazepin a seat, insisting that he achieved it based on his results. Speaking of their 2021 driver’s line-up, consisting of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, he explained “One is leading F2 and one is third in the F2 championship and results always talk. They are both pretty mature guys for their age,” – a comment which didn’t age well in Mazepin’s case. He didn’t manage to hold on to third place, and ended up finishing fifth at the end of the season, behind the likes of Callum Ilott and Robert Schwartzman, neither of whom have a Formula 1 seat for the 2021 season.
To top it all off, Mazepin has history of dangerous and reckless driving. An example of this is the Sakhir Grand Prix, where he was handed two five-second time penalties, for forcing both Yuki Tsunoda and Felipe Drugovich off the track. These penalties are what caused him to drop to fifth in the driver’s championship. Furthermore, The FIA judged Mazepin “wholly at fault” for the Russian Grand Prix crash that hospitalised both himself and Nobuharu Matsushita. As a result, Mazepin got awarded a 15-place grid penalty for the following race. Stewards said that the incident was caused by Mazepin’s “total lack of due care for his fellow drivers.”
Mazepin’s on-track and off-track behaviour of both past and present has caused fans of the sport to believe that he does not deserve the opportunity in Formula 1 that he has been given.
He also has history of unacceptable off-track behaviour. He was banned from the first race of Formula 3 European Championship due to a physical altercation in the paddock. Eye-witnesses reported that he punched Callum Ilott, causing cuts to his cheek and neck, and swelling to his jaw. Ilott’s team boss Frits van Amersfoort reported that “Callum was attacked twice in the face – twice! The first reaction might be emotional, but then they were separated, and he was attacked again. He has a black eye, he has a swollen jaw, he’s been hurt, not just attacked.”
Mazepin’s on-track and off-track behaviour of both past and present has caused fans of the sport to believe that he does not deserve the opportunity in Formula 1 that he has been given. Yet, it seems that the ongoing backlash and the “#WeSayNoToMazepin” hashtag will not change Haas’ decision that he will be racing for them in the 2021 season.
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