Guenther Steiner thinks he has shattered the myth that Nikita Mazepin is a “miserable young man” with the Haas team’s spinning top prank.
The Moscow-born driver, in his rookie Formula 1 season, quickly acquired the nickname ‘Maze-spin’ and was even the subject of a website set up to track his number of spins. The current tally for the year is 12, not having been increased during a cleaner Styrian Grand Prix weekend.
In an effort to improve the public perception of the 22-year-old, Haas set up a social media video in which Steiner presented Mazepin with a gift box which he opened to find a spinning top.
“It’s the Mazespin, there are two of them now,” joked Steiner. “It’s better than spinning the car.”
Mazepin failed with his first attempt to spin the top and burst out laughing as he said: “I can’t even spin this!”
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) June 27, 2021
Given the amount of criticism he has received for a variety of reasons since being named as a Haas driver last December, it is perhaps no surprise that Mazepin comes across as an intense, perhaps even slightly morose, individual.
But Steiner insisted the jovial side he showed in the spinning top video was not an act.
Asked if it had been difficult to convince him to take part in the video, Steiner said, quoted by GP Fans: “He was not uncomfortable, he was pretty happy.
“There is a happy Nikita Mazepin as well, you know. You all think he is an unhappy kid, that he is this miserable young man, but he has a good sense of humour.”
Indicating Mazepin has got used to the “social media storm”, the Italian added: “He was on the wrong side at some stage.
“In the end, as I say, social media can be good and bad to you. It was an idea in the team to do this to him and then we did it.”
Steiner was pleased to be able to use social media to promote Mazepin in a positive and “funny” light.
“It seems to be that everything on social media about Nikita is about bad things,” said Steiner.
“There can be also good things. Try to use it to your advantage and get away from the naysayers.”