It’s a well known fact that the Russian-Ukrainian War has taken a massive toll around the world, with multiple sanctions against the country led by Vladmir Putin being taken by countries worldwide. But the war has had its impacts in the world of motorsport as well, and Formula 1 is no different. What has happened at Haas for the situation to end up like this? Let’s do a recap on everything so far.
Haas has been in the headlines of the Formula 1 paddock since 2019, but for all the wrong reasons. The controversy within Haas started in 2019, after the infamous Rich Energy sponsorship deal and the poor season in 2020 (although Romain Grosjean received praise from scoring at the Nurburgring and his crash at Bahrain), and 2021 was no different. A poor season, also adding up to the controversy surrounding Russian driver Nikita Mazepin following a controversial Instagram story, involving actions which started the whole #WeSayNoToMazepin hashtag on social media, and 2022 sadly doesn’t seem to be going better, although there is some hope now.
This all started back on the 24th of February, 2022, when Russia started an invasion of Ukraine, which so far hasn’t been as successful as Russia predicted it to be. As mentioned before, the already controversial Nikita Mazepin found himself on the headlines, this time on a possible dismissal by the American F1 team, as pictures were leaked of Haas staff removing their main sponsor’s brand, Russian chemical company UralKali (which Mazepin’s father, Dmitry, is a key shareholder of) after the second day of testing. Another factor that stirred up controversy was the fact that Dmitry Mazepin, Nikita’s father, was seen at the Kremlin, on a meeting with Russian president Vladmir Putin
The third day of pre-season testing in the Circuit of Barcelona-Catalunya, in Spain, showed us another sight that things were not looking good for Mazepin, when Haas ran on a blank livery for the final session, removing the Russian flag colours (which were controversial since its introduction in 2021) and UralKali sponsorship, to which the Haas F1 Team base back at Kannapolis, North Carolina, said the following about the running of the VF-22 model in the final day of testing:
“Haas F1 Team will present its VF-22 in a plain white livery, minus Uralkali branding, for the third and final day of track running at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday 25 February. Nikita Mazepin will drive as planned in the morning session with Mick Schumacher taking over in the afternoon. No further comment will be made at this time regarding team partner agreements.”
Haas did have a meeting with sponsors to decide the fate of Uralkali sponsorship and potential replacements for Mazepin were instantly drawn by the fans. The main option is current Haas test driver, Brazilian driver Pietro Fittipaldi, although former Alfa Romeo driver, Italy’s Antonio Giovinazzi, was linked to potentially replace the Russian. The meeting was held, and decisions regarding the situation for the Kannapolis-based team were made.
On the 5th of March, 2022, the Haas F1 Team social medias stated the following:
“Haas F1 Team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin. As with the rest of the Formula 1 community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”
This announcement marked the likely end of Nikita Mazepin’s tumultuous Formula 1 career, and Mazepin took to social media to say the following:
“Dear fans and followers, I am very disappointed to hear that my F1 contract has been terminated. While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from FIA (the sport’s governing body) plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored and no process was followed in this unilateral step. To those who have tried to understand, my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times. I will have more to say in the coming days.”