American Formula 1 team Haas wants to review its relationship with Russian title sponsor Uralkali and it remains unclear whether they will continue to work together amid the ongoing Ukraine crisis, Nikita Mazepin’s Formula One future is also at stake with Haas declaring his replacement when it becomes impossible for the Russian to race.
The Russian joined Haas along with Uralkali for the 2021 Formula One season. His father, Russian oligarch Dmitri Mazepin, is a co-owner of Uralkali and has generously co-financed his son’s racing career from the start.
In view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Haas took to the track without Uralkali’s branding and colours on Friday, the final day of testing in Barcelona. Mazepin took part in the morning session as planned, but team boss Günther Steiner admitted that officially the Russian’s future “needs to be clarified”.
When Mazepin drops out, a replacement will be quickly arranged, as Steiner stressed in an interview with “Speed City Broadcasting”. The team would fall back on reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi: “If Nikita couldn’t drive for one reason or another, the first call would go to Pietro.”
Steiner: “Pietro knows the team and the car”
“He has been with us for a couple of years and then we would see what we do next,” Steiner said. Fittipaldi has been linked to Haas since autumn 2018, taking part in the young driver test in Abu Dhabi that year and acting as a test driver in 2019.
Over the past two years, he has been on hand at most races to step in should one of the regular drivers contract the corona virus or get injured. He replaced Romain Grosjean at the end of 2020 after his fire accident and drove in the last two races of the season in Sachir and Abu Dhabi.
Most recently, Fittipaldi was behind the wheel of the Haas VF-21 at the post-season test in Abu Dhabi. “He knows the team, he knows the car he can jump into from one day to the next. There is nobody better than Pietro at the moment,” Steiner said.
Mazepin, whose media appearances have been cancelled recently, wrote on his social media profiles on Friday: “To my fans and followers – it’s a difficult time and I have no control over much of what is said and done.”
“I have decided to focus on what I CAN control by working hard and doing my best for my Haas team. I sincerely thank you all for your understanding and support.” By the evening, the post had received more than 38,000 “likes” on Twitter.
Steiner acknowledged that “not everything depends on us” when talking about Mazepin’s future in the team. “There are governments involved and I have no power over them. We also have to see how the situation in Ukraine develops.”