Mazepin is gone for good.
Earlier this month, the FIA canceled the Russian Grand Prix, and last week it implemented new rules against national anthems, flags, and sponsorship. The only team affected by the new regulation is Haas, which also happens to be the only American team on the grid.
Over the weekend, Haas officially announced that it's terminating the contract of its Russian sponsor, Uralkali, and its Russian driver, Nikita Mazepin. This comes as no surprise, as we predicted this move soon after the FIA announced its sanctions against Russia.
Why is Haas taking such a firm stance against one individual? Well, the answer is quite simple.
Despite the FIA's sanctions, Russian and Belarusian individuals can still race. Acting as a country, the UK was a bit more fierce, not allowing any individuals to race.
Now, one could argue that Haas could employ a backup driver. Alfa Romeo used the driving skills of Robert Kubica after Kimi Raikkonen tested positive for Covid-19.
This brings us neatly to the main problem Haas likely has with Mazepin. We hate to be blunt, but he's just not good enough to be an F1 driver. For proof, have a look at the 2021 drivers' championship standings. There are only 20 spots on the grid, so how did Nikiti Mazepin end up 21st out of 20 drivers. Well, the answer is Robert Kubica. He placed higher in his solitary race during 2021 and therefore came 20th.
Mazepin is like a Mazda Miata entering a McLaren 620R race. Not only is he going to lose badly, but he's a hazard.
But don't take our word for it. Simply look at the montage of Mazepin annoying everyone on the grid during 2021. A word of caution. This video includes foul language, especially from Valtteri Bottas, who leaves no doubt about what he thinks.
We don't think anyone on the 2022 grid will miss him.
Finally, the most likely reason Haas gave Mazepin the boot. Mazepin is a pay-to-play driver sponsored by his father.
The Uralkali sponsor Haas was so eager to drop is owned by Uralchem, which is owned by Dmitry Mazepin. The older Mazepin is a known supporter and fanboy of Vladimir Putin. This is most likely why Mazepin's original Twitter statement in the immediate aftermath of the Ukrainian invasion was so vague. Even so, fair play to Mazepin. As we now know, Putin is more than happy to put protestors behind bars.
In a tweet following the termination of his contract, Mazepin stated that he was "very disappointed."
But that's the game when it comes to paid drivers. Haas can't use Uralchem's money, and with F1's current viewership figures, the team most likely did not struggle to find a replacement sponsor. If Haas is not going to use the sponsorship cash, why use the substandard driver that comes with it?
Haas has not announced its new main sponsor, nor who will occupy the only slot currently left on the grid. We're not going to speculate because an announcement is likely imminent.
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