Haas revealed a Russian flag-inspired livery for their 2021 VF-21, welcoming in new title sponsor Uralkali, but it may not be here to stay.
During the 2020 campaign Haas owner Gene Haas and team boss Guenther Steiner came up with a new strategy, the budget for upgrades would be scaled back, and the team would go down the route of hiring drivers who bring a budget with them.
First up was Mick Schumacher, a Ferrari Driver Academy member and son of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, while Nikita Mazepin, like Schumacher an F2 graduate, landed the second seat.
With Mazepin came key title sponsorship for Haas in the form of Russian fertiliser company Uralkali, creating the Uralkali Haas Formula 1 team.
And in recognition of this partnership, Haas’ updated VF-21 for the new season was kitted out in the colours of the Russian flag. This though, is where a potential issue arises.
An American team with a Russian livery and a German driver. Now that's quite the mix!
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) March 4, 2021
A ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag in world championship events for the next two years due to doping violations, and that ban also applies to Mazepin, meaning he must race under a neutral flag.
As well as that, Mazepin is not allowed to use any emblems, symbols, or the words “Russia” or “Russian” on any clothing or equipment.
“Obviously we cannot use the Russian flag as the Russian flag, but you can use colours on a car,” said Haas F1 boss Gunther Steiner on the matter.
“In the end, it’s the athlete which cannot display the Russian flag and not the team. The team is an American team.”
However, WADA are indeed investigating whether or not the Russian-inspired colour scheme of the Haas VF-21 is in breach of the ruling.
“WADA is aware of this matter and is looking into it with the relevant authorities,” a spokesperson from WADA told Motorsport.com.
In response, Formula 1’s governing body the FIA said: “The team has clarified the livery with the FIA – the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] decision does not prohibit the use of the colours of the Russian flag.”
It also appears Uralkali have done some work themselves to try and ensure that the red, blue and white remains on the Haas car via the introduction of a new ‘corporate logo’ which is purely specific to their Formula 1-related activities.
Also something interesting to note. On Uralkali's corporate website, their old logo is still in place. If you look at their files, the 'new corporate logo' is marked as being F1-specific. So it appears the new logo is being presented solely for the purposes of this sponsorship. pic.twitter.com/qZj1EoPDwb
— Thomas Maher (@thomasmaheronf1) March 5, 2021