Guenther Steiner says he was surprised that people “didn’t let go” of their hatred and anger towards Nikita Mazepin.
Shortly after it was confirmed that Mazepin would be joining the Formula 1 grid for the 2021 campaign, signing for Haas, the Russian was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
A video was posted on his social media of him groping a woman that he was in a car with, causing widespread outrage with a huge number of people calling on the American team to drop him.
Such calls were ignored, and an apology from the driver and assurances from the team that the matter had been dealt with internally did little to quell such outrage, with it remaining throughout the year.
Steiner says he moved on from the matter relatively quickly but knows a high number of people didn’t, which he’s surprised by.
“I managed to stay calm,” he told GPFans.
“I talked with him about it. For him, it was clear he did something wrong, he shouldn’t have done it. Then again, he’s a young man and you need the second chance and I got over it pretty quick.
“A lot of people didn’t let go, which I was surprised [about] actually because there are lots of things happening in the world and people let go pretty quick.
“They didn’t let him go for a long time. I don’t know why. Maybe I don’t need to know.”
Nikita's season in pictures 🖼️
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) December 27, 2021
Mazepin ended up having a difficult rookie season in F1, being a fair way off team-mate Mick Schumacher on both Saturdays and Sundays for the vast majority of the campaign.
What’s more, he angered a number of drivers with many feeling he was too aggressive and even dangerous on track.
Steiner believes the backlash from the F1 community played a part in such struggles, serving as a distraction for the 22-year-old.
“In the end, for sure, that wasn’t a help when he started the season because there must be some distractions, especially if you are young,” the team principal added.
While he admits it wasn’t the best season for him, Mazepin himself isn’t worried, saying that he didn’t immediately settle when joining new teams in previous categories either and that, like wine, he always gets better as time goes by.