Nikita Mazepin expects a “very big learning curve” in his first Formula 1 season, but he is looking to get as high up the grid as possible.
Mazepin has spent the last two seasons racing in Formula 2, finishing P18 and P5 respectively, and he will this season take to F1 for the first time after joining Haas in an all-new line-up.
He will partner Mick Schumacher, also new to the series, so it should be an interesting contest between the two rookies as the season goes on.
New drivers have had it arguably harder than ever this season, given the reduced pre-season schedule of just three days in Bahrain, but Mazepin feels ready for the opening race weekend back at the same venue at the end of the month.
As quoted by Formula1.com, he said: “I feel prepared. Obviously if you’d offered me 10 more minutes on track, I’d always take it, and that’s the nature of the world of F1 that we live in currently. But I think I’m in a good place of starting my career in Formula 1.
“The team has been incredibly helpful and incredibly good with managing a young driver like me, so that’s something that I didn’t really expect coming into a team that’s used to only having experienced drivers. So very happy about that and hugely confident that over the 365 days of a year, we can really go further together as a group of people.”
His one-and-a-half days in the new VF-21 came in interesting weather conditions, with a sandstorm causing problems for the drivers on Friday.
“As an experience, it was very fun,” added Mazepin. “I think it was a very good learning curve… starting with difficult conditions on day one, and then slightly progressing towards a more grippy track, with more opportunities of extracting the lap time.
“It’s still a very big learning curve to be done; the year is going to be very long, but I think we got the most out of these three days that we had on the table, and the team’s done a great job.”
Pre-season test days ended with my Sunday afternoon session on @BAH_Int_Circuit. Thank you @HaasF1Team for all your efforts and input and let’s keep it up – first season race is here in Bahrain in 2 weeks. pic.twitter.com/4sTbNLh98m
— Nikita Mazepin (@nikita_mazepin) March 14, 2021
Last season, Haas were stuck in the battle at the bottom of the grid, claiming just three points over the course of the year, and with the limited development allowed on the 2020 car, that is not expected to change.
Mazepin said: “We are in the situation we are in and regardless of the team’s plans, the driver’s job is to maximise it, and my goal is to go as forward as I can possibly go.
“It was important to make a lot of laps [in testing], because you’re very limited with the amount of running you’re going to get this year, so the more laps we do, the more familiar I am with the car – and competing with those guys who have raced in F1 for 10 years, that’s a big advantage that I will gain.”