Nikita Mazepin has indicated a degree of inside knowledge that Formula 1 have no plans to cancel this year’s Russian Grand Prix.
The Haas driver was quizzed about whether his home race was in jeopardy after taking part in the opening F1 track session of 2022 at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Doubts about September’s race in Sochi going ahead are being raised as a result of the highly delicate political situation between Russia and the western world over a potential invasion of the Ukraine.
As President Vladimir Putin has now recognised two parts of the Ukraine as being independent republics, western countries are starting to impose economic sanctions – which could extend to sporting events being taken away from Russia.
Football’s UEFA Champions League Final in May is a prime candidate for such a measure, while it has also been speculated Formula 1 may scrap the Russian Grand Prix on September 25 and move it elsewhere.
Mazepin, whose father Dmitry is the title sponsor of the Haas team, appeared convinced when asked by Sky F1 that the final race scheduled for Sochi – with the Russian Grand Prix due to move to Igora Drive near St Petersburg from next year – will be held as planned.
“Of course,” was Mazepin’s reaction when asked if he was hopeful the race in Sochi would go ahead. “From the understanding we’ve had with Formula 1, the race is going ahead and you will surely see me there.”
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) February 23, 2022
Earlier in the interview, the 22-year-old had been asked whether what is currently dominating the news was affecting his focus as an F1 competitor on the day preparations ramped up for the new season with the VF-22 car.
“I’m not struggling at all because I’ve always been a big supporter of sports without politics,” said Mazepin.
“Today I’m in Barcelona. I cannot tell you the excitement of driving the new car and the excitement of actually being involved and developing this new car, and actually from seeing the pictures for a year and then seeing it in physical carbon copy of the pictures is great.
“I’m just very happy to be in Barcelona and I hope these three days are longer because it’s a nice experience.”
Of the 10 cars on track during the four hours of the first morning session, Mazepin managed only 18 laps compared to Max Verstappen’s 80 in the Red Bull and admitted there had been a few “new car gremlins” in the works.
“Exactly that,” said Mazepin. “Sometimes simulation doesn’t match real life. The cars are such on the edge of technology that sometimes reliability is a weak point, but I just hope the performance is there and it looks like it is.”
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