Haas F1 boss surprised at fans’ hatred for Nikita Mazepin


Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner says that he’s surprised at F1 fans’ “continued hatred” towards his driver Nikita Mazepin. The Russian rookie driver made his F1 debut with the American team alongside his old F2 rival Mick Schumacher.

Speaking of the treatment Mazepin has been subjected to throughout the 2021 season, Steiner felt that the Russian hasn’t been accepted by fans even as his teammate Schumacher has come to be adorned. In an interview with GPFans, the Italian said:

“A lot of people didn’t let go, which I was surprised actually because there are lots of things happening in the world and people let go pretty quick.”

“They didn’t let him go for a long time. I don’t know why. Maybe I don’t need to know. In the end, for sure, that wasn’t a help when he started the season because there must be some distractions, especially if you are young.”

In early 2021, a video of Mazepin inappropriately touching a woman surfaced online, leading to intense social media backlash towards the team. Some sections of the F1 community even urged Haas to reconsider their decision to hire Mazepin to drive for the team.

Haas issues a statement reaffirming Nikita Mazepin will race in 2021 #F1 https://t.co/9HE4oYBtTu

In response to the incident, Haas put out a public statement, strongly condemning Mazepin’s actions, and promised to deal with the incident internally.

Speaking about the team’s handling of the situation, Steiner said:

“I managed to stay calm. I talked with him about it. For him, it was clear he did something wrong, he shouldn’t have done it. Then again, he’s a young man and you need the second chance and I got over it pretty quick.”

Meanwhile, Mazepin has been involved in other controversies throughout the season, mostly due to on-track infractions during race weekends. The Russian driver, despite being in the slowest car on the grid, has oftentimes refused to obey blue flags. By not making way for faster cars, he has even incurred the wrath of drivers such as Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, among others.

Haas hopeful of returning to upper midfield in 2022

Haas became one of the few F1 teams to have scored points on their debut with Romain Grosjean’s P6 finish at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. Within just two years of their debut, Haas were already fiercely contending with existing teams for the “best of the rest” title in the constructors’ championship.

A solid haul of points in the 2018 season helped the little American team finish P5 in the constructors, with a fraction of the budget of bigger teams such as McLaren and Toro Rosso.

After a solid few seasons, however, their successful approach of buying as many parts as they were allowed to from Ferrari and outsourcing the manufacturing to Dallara started to backfire.

Combined with a dubious partnership with a supposed energy drinks company called “Rich Energy”, the American outfit’s 2019 and 2020 campaigns were a complete disaster.

2018 was the best year with Haas even with a bad debut from me. P4 in Austria which is still Haas’ best result up to now.Team: Haas F1 TeamGrand Prix: 21Championship Classification: 14thPoints finishes: 7Points scored: 37Best result: 4th in Austria https://t.co/IxFs5iKTRk

The cars had major issues with handling and tire management in race trim, severely impacting driveability. Since much of the manufacturing was outsourced, the team wasn’t equipped to diagnose the root cause of the problems, and therefore were unable to fix the issues. They finished P9 that year, just above Williams.

Come 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic further put the little American team under extreme financial difficulties, leading to owner Gene Haas considering selling the team. Investment from Russian company Ural Kali, however, helped keep the team afloat.

To reduce costs, the team opted not to develop their 2021 challenger, and instead focussed all their energy on the new regulations for 2022. The team is hopeful that their efforts throughout the last season will finally bear fruit and return them to the top of midfield, potentially fighting for podiums.

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