Steiner confirms who has ‘first call’ over Mazepin seat

Henry Valantine
Nikita Mazepin with an engineer. Barcelona February 2022.

Haas driver Nikita Mazepin speaks to an engineer in the garage. Barcelona February 2022.

Should Nikita Mazepin be unable to race in Formula 1, Haas team boss Guenther Steiner has confirmed the seat would be offered to reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi.

Mazepin’s future has suddenly been cast into doubt after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier in the week, with father Dmitry funding the team’s title sponsorship through Uralkali.

The team’s car had run in the Russian flag colours of red, white and blue, but the team ran without Uralkali branding in Formula 1’s shakedown in Barcelona on Friday, and Haas team principal Steiner admitted that Mazepin’s future with the team is an issue that needs to be resolved in the coming days, and could not confirm whether or not the Russian would drive with the team this season.

Mazepin received hefty criticism after saying he didn’t want to mix “sport and politics” regarding the Russian invasion of its neighbouring country, and a series of economic sanctions have been taken against the country from governments around the world as a result.

But should Mazepin not compete this season, 25-year-old Fittipaldi, who is entering his third season as Haas’ reserve driver, would be Steiner’s choice to step up.

“If Nikita couldn’t drive for one or another reason, the first call would go to Pietro,” Steiner told Speed City Broadcasting in an interview.

“Obviously, he [has been] with us for a few years, and then we would see what we do next.

“But I mean Pietro is always around with us for a reason. The last years, we needed a reserve driver, having COVID around, so he is always around.

“He knows the team, he knows the car to jump in for one day to the other. There is nobody better than Pietro around at the moment.”

Mazepin himself admitted there are elements of his future that are out of his own hands, but took part in pre-season running in Barcelona on Friday as planned.

He said he will keep his mind on what is in front of him, and thanked his fans for their support in this moment.

 

“To my fans and followers – it’s a difficult time and I am not in control over a lot of what is being said and done,” Mazepin wrote on Twitter.

“I’m choosing to focus on what I CAN control by working hard and doing my best for my team. My deepest thanks for your understanding and support.”

 

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