On Saturday, the Russian invasion of Ukraine rumbled through Formula One, with Haas sacking driver Nikita Mazepin. The American-owned squad also abandoned Uralkali as a sponsor, a Russian fertilizer company owned in part by Mazepin’s wealthy father Dmitry, 53, a Putin friend.
Nikita Mazepin and Haas
The terminations were ‘immediately effective,’ according to Haas, who added: ‘The team is shocked by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift end to the conflict.’
The team was aided in their decision by Motorsport UK’s announcement that no Russian-linked rivals would be allowed to compete in the UK, therefore ruling Mazepin out of the British Grand Prix. Haas believes that their finances will be able to withstand the loss of Uralkali’s £20 million annual contributions.
Haas’ former title sponsor, Uralkali, is part-owned by Dmitry Mazepin, and the Russian chemical company’s branding was removed for the final day of testing in Barcelona last week.
Despite Nikita Mazepin’s readiness to follow an FIA obligation, ‘to stand in sympathy with the people of Ukraine and all those suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict,’ Haas did not support him.
Hitting back on Social Media
Nikita Mazepin, who is 23 years old, retaliated on social media, writing: “I am very disappointed. The ruling from the FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed were completely ignored, and no process was followed in this unilateral step.”
Mazepin’s father, who is said to be worth £5 billion, has strong Putin ties, which made it impossible for Haas to ignore. Following the invasion of Ukraine, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The sacking comes only days after the Russian Grand Prix, which was held in Sochi in September and was scheduled to be held in Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg from next year, was permanently withdrawn off the calendar by the sport’s owners, Liberty Media.
Candidate to Replace Mazepin
Kevin Magnussen, the Dane who replaced Nikita Mazepin in 2021, is Haas’ leading candidate to succeed him. Pietro Fittipaldi, a reserve driver, and Antonio Giovinazzi, an Italian, are also being considered.
Mazepin Snr’s current net worth is unknown; however, rumors suggest it could be in the billions of pounds ($7 billion). In the late 1980s, he worked as an interpreter in the military in Afghanistan. The Russian government has decorated him with military decorations.
Mazepin joined Haas at the start of the 2021 season as part of a sponsorship deal that helped the team secure its finances ahead of the season. As a result of the decision, no Russian drivers have signed up to participate in Formula One for the upcoming season.