Author: Drew Heaslip Reading time: 5m
If nothing else, Nikita Mazepin will at least be famous for being the first F1 driver to have got himself into hot water and nearly lost his job before his first race.
By now it is common knowledge who Mazepin is, why he is in trouble, his history of trouble and of course who his dad is. However, if you have missed some of the details then here is a quick rundown. If you are all up to date though then feel free to skip ahead a bit.
Nikita is the son of Dmitry Mazepin, a Russian businessman who is the core shareholder and chairman of the Uralchem Integrated Chemicals Company. Dmitry has effectively bought his son a seat at Haas for the 2021 season owing to the financial trouble that Haas have found themselves in. Haas had to let go of their long term drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to try and save money and have opted to take on Nikita and Mick Schumacher (son of the legendary Michael Schumacher) who can bring more money to the team. Both drivers have just graduated from F2 with the latter having won the F2 drivers championship in 2020.
Nikita Mazepin has a history of trouble. Most notably, after an F3 race in 2016 where he was repeatedly blocked on track by fellow racer Callum Ilott, Mazepin punched Ilott in the face during an altercation. Nikita was subsequently banned from the next race. However his most recent controversy is probably his worst. On the 9th December 2020, Mazepin posted an Instagram story in which he could be seen inappropriately groping a woman’s breasts. The story blew up and Haas moved quickly to release a statement in which they labelled Mazepin’s behaviour as “abhorrent” and stated that him posting the video publicly on social media was equally as abhorrent. They also made it clear that the matter would be dealt with internally.
Mazepin himself posted an apology on Twitter but the girl who he was seen groping in the video stepped in to defend him by saying the were friends and it was just a silly joke. However, Nikita deleted his apology nine days later and the girl in the video who had defended him posted some odd comments on social media such as “never let them touch you again or be disrespectful to you” and both she and Nikita have now “unfollowed” each other online.
Haas have since said that the matter has now been dealt with and that the details will be staying within the team and that they are standing by their driver. It doesn’t take a cynic to realise that Haas cannot afford to lose the money that Mazepin brings to the team if they are to continue in F1. However, the question remains of whether it is right to allow Mazepin’s actions to go effectively unpunished purely because of money? It’s open to debate as to what punishment Nikita deserves. Many people have called for him to be sacked from the team and others have said he should be allowed to stay but be punished in some other way. The first problem is that on this occasion, Mazepin’s crime was not “F1 related” and it happened “outside of work” so it wouldn’t seem appropriate to be punished by race bans, points deductions or anything of that sort. Job dismissal would seem to be the only option due to the nature of what he done and especially in a time when we have the “Me too” movement and greater and greater emphasis on sexual harassment of women. Haas have made it clear though that a dismissal is not on the cards.
In my personal view, Mazepin has only held onto his job because of the money he brings to the team or he would have been fired on the spot. To lose the money he brings in could be the difference between the team surviving, or not. If the team folded then there would be a huge knock-on effect of lots of job losses if a buyer for the team couldn’t be found. That is not something any of us want to see happening. However there has been a very strong feeling from F1 fans on this matter that Mazepin will be much more trouble than he is worth whilst some have said he could even be a danger to other drivers in F1 owing to some of the less than “clean” tactics he uses in racing.
What do YOU think? Should Mazepin have been dismissed from Haas? Should he be punished in some other way? Or perhaps you support Mazepin and believe that an incident that happened outside of “work” should not affect his career? Let us know!