Nikita Mazepin has carved out a post-F1 career in motorsport but says he still hopes to make it back to Formula 1.
Mazepin’s F1 career came to a very sudden end at the beginning of 2022 when having already begun pre-season testing with Haas, he and title sponsor Uralkali were removed from the team as military action began in Ukraine and EU-wide sanctions were applied to Russian athletes, and companies.
Russian athletes can race in FIA-sanctioned events provided they sign a driver commitment form, which outlines details such as not displaying Russian flags or seeking the playing of the Russian national anthem. Comments or conduct showing support for the Russian military action are also not permitted. Mazepin has not raced in an FIA-sanctioned event since he departed from F1.
Nikita Mazepin: Watching F1 has a certain stress
The Russian athlete, who races in – and currently leads – the Asian Le Mans Series with events in Dubai, Malaysia, and Abu Dhabi, said he continues to struggle watching Formula 1 as he feels the reasons for his non-participation are difficult to deal with.
“For me personally, watching a race is not always just a pleasant experience, but also a certain stress,” he said in an interview with Russia’s Championat.
“Because I am sitting, watching a race and I know that there is a track in Europe three and a half to four hours away from Moscow where a competition is taking place but, for some subjective reason, I can’t get there. For someone who is 24 years old, this is not an easy psychological challenge.”
Having raced in ALMS and dabbling in rally-raid events in 2022, Mazepin said he is eager to get back into F1.
“It was interesting for me after Formula 1 to try something different,” he said.
“And I’ve basically tried a lot of things, but I really want to go back to where I started.
“Everything is like that: one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward… After all, after Formula 1, the championship in Asia is a certain downgrade. I try to keep myself in the right weight and shape to return to Formula 1 if such an opportunity arises. But I am a human being. I have the allotted number of years on this earth, so I have to think about other ways of development.”
Despite the sanctions against Russian athletes that prevent him from taking part in F1 and in other European events, Mazepin said he has no interest in giving up on a motorsport career yet.
“Definitely not,” he said.
“Probably now I spend most of my time not on racing directly, but in any case, it is mostly sports-related activities. There are some, let’s say, non-sporting activities.
“But this is purely because there are blocks to a full return to the sport. I believe that if I get the opportunity to return to the top of motorsport, there should be no problems with my physical form. I am doing everything for this, but since there is a huge bureaucracy in the judicial processes, in sanction issues, I do not want to waste time either.”
Mazepin said he’s hopeful of, one day, being able to take part in illustrious races such as the Le Mans 24 Hours or Daytona.
“Depending on the calendar, I’d really like to run the Le Mans 24 Hours at some point,” he said.
“It’s such a legendary race, I’ve been watching it on TV for many years myself. I would really like to do it at Daytona. There is a category LMP2 – it would be cool, because I believe that I adapted well to the car. But I do not forget about Formula 1. So there is a desire to perform, but there are still difficulties.”
While winning the ALMS series he’s currently competing in would secure a place for the Le Mans 24 Hours, Mazepin knows there are more hurdles to face.
“[Winning ALMS] does, but you can’t forget about the sanctions, which, of course, hinder this,” he said.
“Fortunately, there are safeguards that I work with all the time. But there are still difficulties, such as visa issues.”