Nikita Mazepin to return to competition. Russia’s Nikita Mazepin is set to compete in the Asian Le Mans Series in the LMP2 class. The former Formula 1 driver will drive an Oreca 07 in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Russia’s Nikita Mazepin is set to make his competitive comeback in 2023, almost a year after being dropped from Formula One by his former team Haas following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Shortly before the start of the 2022 Formula One season, the American Haas team made the decision to part ways with its Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, as well as its main sponsor Uralkali, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and after Russian athletes were banned from international competitions following IOC recommendations.
Russian is back
A little less than a year after his dismissal, Nikita Mazepin is back behind the wheel in motorsport. The young Russian will compete in the Asian Le Mans Series in 2023 in the LMP2 class with the 99 Racing team. Mazepin’s teammates will be Ben Barnicoat and Felix Porteiro.
“I am very happy to be making my return to competition in the Asian Le Mans Series. With my 99 Racing teammates, I hope to have a great experience in a sport I love,” said the former F1 driver.
The entire 2023 Asian Le Mans Series will take place in the United Arab Emirates in February (11, 12, 18 and 19). The season will start with the first two races in Dubai, before moving to Abu Dhabi for the final two races. The new season will continue to consist of four four-hour races and will include night, day and twilight races.
The son of Dmitry Mazepin, a Belarusian-Russian oligarch businessman who is the core shareholder and chairman of Uralchem.
On 9 December 2020, Mazepin posted an Instagram story in which he appeared to inappropriately grope a woman’s breasts. In a statement, the Haas F1 Team rebuked Mazepin’s actions and called the video “abhorrent”. Mazepin also released an apology, stating:
“I have to hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula 1 driver and I acknowledge I have let myself and many people down”, but the apology was deleted nine days later.
In March 2021, Mazepin reiterated that he understood his actions were wrong. The woman in the video defended Mazepin and labelled his actions as a joke between the two The woman has since posted content on her own social media stating “never let them touch you again or be disrespectful to you” and the two have since unfollowed each other.
The controversy led to the hashtag “#WeSayNoToMazepin” to trend on Twitter, calling for Mazepin’s removal from the Haas F1 Team.
Removal from Haas and F1
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 the final day of winter testing last year in Barcelona. Mazepin took part in the morning session as planned, but team boss Günther Steiner later admitted that officially the Russian’s future “needs to be clarified”.
Mazepin was contracted to compete for Haas in the 2022 Formula One World Championship, however on 5 March, Haas terminated both his contract and Uralkali’s title sponsorship as part of the larger global response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Mazepin expressed disappointment at the decision, remarking on social media that his “ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored”.
In a BBC interview, Mazepin stated that the sports sanctions were “cancel culture” against Russia. Mazepin also stated that he sees “tremendous risks in saying anything at all” regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In July 2022, Mazepin sued Haas in a Swiss court for unpaid wages. During the month, he told Match TV that despite his exit, he still follows Formula One closely when possible.