Haas F1 announced the signing of Nikita Mazepin for 2021. The young driver is set to be joined by Mick Schumacher, son of F1 driver Michael Schumacher, for their driver lineup next year.
Nikita has serious backing from his wealthy father and the annoucncement was met with criticism that the young Russian bought his seat but team boss Gunther Steiner countered those criticisms telling Autosport:
“There’s a lot of drivers who get into F1 thanks to financial backing,” said Steiner, who revealed talks with Mazepin began last year.
“There are very good drivers in F1 who in the beginning brought a sponsor.
“The first one to call is Checo [Sergio Perez]. Checo came to F1 and it was, ‘He’s a pay driver.’ Look at Checo now, he finished on the podium, he’s doing a good job.
“George Russell for me is one of the best drivers, but without the help of Mercedes he wouldn’t be anywhere”
He has a point and if you were concerned about his buying a seat, Lance Stroll’s father bought a team for his son to race in. Pay drivers is nothing new to F1 as Nicholas Latifi’s father is heavily leveraged in Williams and this his son has a ride in 2020.
Here is the official press release from Haas F1:
Haas F1 Team has confirmed Russia’s Nikita Mazepin will drive for the American outfit in a multi-year deal starting with the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Mazepin (21) currently sits third overall in the Formula 2 driver standings. The Russian, in his second season in Formula 1’s official feeder category, has two Feature Race wins to his credit at Silverstone and Mugello, with four additional podiums and two fastest race laps adding to his stellar 2020 campaign.
In a hotly contested Formula 2 season, Mazepin climbed to third in the points courtesy of a second-place finish in Sunday’s Round 11 Sprint race at Bahrain International Circuit. The Hitech Grand Prix driver will compete in the Formula 2 season finale next weekend, also in Bahrain, before making the move up to Formula 1 with Haas F1 Team.
“I’m delighted that Nikita Mazepin will be driving for Haas F1 Team next season,” stated Guenther Steiner, Team Principal of Haas F1 Team.
“Nikita has underlined his credentials in Formula 2 this year with a brace of victories and a handful of podiums in what’s been a strong sophomore season for him. He’s developed into a mature racer moving up through the junior ranks – notably most recently in the GP3 Series, where he finished runner-up in 2018, and obviously in Formula 2 over the past two seasons.
“I’m excited to see what Nikita can achieve in Formula 1 and we look forward to giving him the opportunity to compete at the highest level of world motorsport. With a record-setting 23 race schedule set for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, he’s going to get plenty of track action to learn all the nuances of grand prix racing.”
Mazepin graduated from karting into cars in 2015 – competing in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC. Two seasons followed in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship before a move into the GP3 Series in 2018.
Mazepin finished as runner-up in the title fight that season with four wins, his success leading the way to Formula 2 in 2019. Mazepin has recent Formula 1 test experience – the Moscow-born racer topping the timesheets in Barcelona’s second in-season test day in May 2019 driving for Mercedes.
“Becoming a Formula 1 driver is a lifelong dream come true for me,” commented Nikita Mazepin on joining Haas F1 Team.
“I really appreciate the trust being put in me by Gene Haas, Guenther Steiner, and the whole of the team. They’re giving a young driver an opportunity and I thank them for that. I’m looking forward to starting our relationship together, both on and off the track, and I’m naturally keen to continue to demonstrate my abilities after a strong Formula 2 season.
“The team will be looking to me for feedback and inputs in order to refine its package for 2021 and beyond. I will take that responsibility on and can’t wait to get started.”