With the future of Haas driver Nikita Mazepin up in the air following the team’s swift removal of Uralkali as a sponsor, principal Guenther Steiner has revealed the team’s first-choice replacement driver.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the future of Mazepin as an F1 driver has been under serious doubt. It is no secret that he is in the team as a pay driver, with his father Dmitry Mazepin largely funding the unit through title sponsors Uralkali.
Previously, the livery of the Haas car had the red, white and blue colours depicting the Russian flag. However, the team ran in a plain white livery during the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Following this, Steiner had even spoken about the fact that the team had to come to a decision regarding the future of Nikita Mazepin.
It has been speculated that without the funding from Uralkali, there is no real need for Haas to continue with a driver who delivered underwhelming results in his debut season in Formula 1 last year.
Nikita Mazepin did not support his case when he said that “sports and politics should not be mixed” in a recent interview following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Should Haas decide to let go of the Russian driver, Steiner revealed that the team already knows which driver it will hand his seat to.
Fittipaldi next in line
Reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi is Steiner’s choice if Haas decides to end Mazepin’s contract amidst recent events.
“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 thanked his fans for showing support to him during such an uncertain time.
“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.”
Do you think Haas should stick with Mazepin, or will Fittipaldi do a better job? Let us know in the comments!