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Nikita Mazepin (right) with Haas F1 teammate Mick Schumacher
Nikita Mazepin (right) with Haas F1 teammate Mick Schumacher — but for how long?Image: Jerry Andre/Laci Perenyi/picture alliance
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F1: Haas ditch driver Mazepin and sponsor Uralkali

Lolade Adewuyi
March 5, 2022

Formula One team Haas has parted company with driver Nikita Mazepin and sponsor Uralkali in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, other Russian drivers will have to sign a Driver Commitment document.

https://p.dw.com/p/480xU

"Haas F1 Team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin," the American Formula One team announced on Saturday.

"As with the rest of the Formula One community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict."

Russian driver Mazepin, 22, is the son of Dmitry Mazepin, a major shareholder in former Haas sponsor Uralkali, whose branding was removed from Haas cars' livery during pre-season testing in Barcelona at the end of February and whose contact has now also been terminated.

The Mazepin family has in the past publicly celebrated its proximity to Vladimir Putin, Nikita wishing the Russian president a happy birthday on Instagram recently with the words: "Thank you for everything you do for Russian sports."

Mazepin has so far failed to condemn Russia's war in Ukraine , which has so far resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and a massive refugee crisis across Europe.

Responding on Saturday, he wrote in a statement: "I am very disappointed to hear that my F1 contract has been terminated. While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored and no process was followed in this unilateral step.

To those who have tried to understand, my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times."

The FIA ruling he was referring to was the decision by world motor sport's governing body on Friday to require all Russian and Belarusian drivers to sign a strict "Driver Commitment" document obliging them, among other things, not to "express any support (direct or indirect) for the Russian and/or Belarusian activities in respect of Ukraine."

Mazepin had previously declared his helplessness at the unfolding "difficult time" in a post last week, saying: "I am not in control over a lot of what is being said and done. I'm choosing to focus on what I CAN control by working hard and doing my best for my Haas F1 team."

As sporting sanctions against Russia began to hit Formula One, the FIA terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi and with Russian banking sponsor VTB in the wake of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. But it has stopped short of an outright ban for Russian drivers, allowing them to compete as neutrals.

Now, not only are national symbols such as colors, flags and anthems prohibited, but drivers must also "not make any statements or comments, take any actions, or conduct myself in a manner that is prejudicial to the interests of the FIA, any competition, and/or motorsport generally."

The most prominent figure subject to the new rules is Mazepin, who has already had his racing license revoked by Motorsport UK. The British governing body has gone further than the global FIA, meaning Mazepin wouldn't have been able to compete at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 3 anyway.

Bad boy Mazepin

The young Mazepin had a controversial first season with Haas in 2021 where he was involved in frequent on-track clashes with teammate Mick Schumacher.

Off the track, in 2020, a video of Mazepin groping the breast of model Andrea D'lVal was posted to social media. The Haas team condemned the video as "abhorrent" before the then 21-year-old had made his official debut.

D'Ival has spoken out in support of the driver and claimed that the video was posted as a joke.

Previously, Mazepin was banned for a race after he punched F3 driver Callum Ilott in the face in 2016 while still a development driver with Force India.

Ilott had blocked Mazepin during practice and a war of words had led to a fight that left the Englishman with a black eye.

But Mazepin, backed by the influence of his oligarch father, rose through the ranks and secured a place with Haas, where he finished bottom of the Driver's Championship rankings in 2021 without a point.

Mazepin (l) and Schumacher had frequent clashes on the track
Mazepin (left) and Schumacher have had frequent clashes on the track Image: Hasan Bratic/dpa/picture alliance

Russian voices for peace

Not many Russian athletes have spoken out against the war in Ukraine. But former Russian F1 driver Daniil Kvyat has called for sports to take the higher road instead of getting enmeshed in the politics of the Russia-Ukraine war.

"I really hope for a peaceful solution to this situation in Ukraine, and that we can all live in peace. Hopefully all parties can find a solution by sitting together and through a respected dialogue," Kyvat wrote on social media.

"It horrifies me to see two brotherhood nations in a conflict. I don't want military actions and wars to influence the future of humanity. I want my daughter and all children to enjoy this beautiful world.

"I would also like to highlight and address all sports federations across the world, including the IOC, that sport should remain outside politics, and disallowing Russian athletes and teams from participating in world competitions is an unfair solution and goes against what sport teaches us in principle: the unity and peace."

Edited by: Matt Ford

Correction, March 4, 2022: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of F3 driver Callum Ilott. DW apologizes for the error.

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