Pietro Fittipaldi to replace Nikita Mazepin in Haas seat for Bahrain testing

Fittipaldi is Haas’ reserve driver and a leading contender to replace Mazepin

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Haas have confirmed that reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will replace Nikita Mazepin at pre-season testing in Bahrain this week.

The American team cut ties with Mazepin last week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and are seeking a replacement for the 23-year-old on the 2022 Formula 1 grid.

Brazilian Fittipaldi filled in for Romain Grosjean at two races at the end of the 2020 season, including the second of two races at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain, finishing 17th.

However in a further blow to Haas, the team have announced that a delayed freight arrival will cause them to be absent from Thursday morning’s first testing session in Bahrain.

That means Fittipaldi’s first chance will come later on the opening day of the final round of testing.

“I can confirm our freight arrived late last night to the circuit in Bahrain,” said a Haas spokesman on Wednesday.

“This delay will impact our programme but we are targeting being out on track for the second session Thursday afternoon with Pietro Fittipaldi driving the VF-22.”

Gene Haas, the owner of the team, has indicated that he would favour a driver with more experience to partner Mick Schumacher.

The team has been linked with a move to pry Nico Hulkenberg from his role as Aston Martin’s reserve driver, while there is said to be interest in an attempt to lure Antonio Giovinazzi back to the F1 grid from Formula E.

Kevin Magnussen, who spent four seasons with Haas between 2017 and 2020, could also return.

Along with ending the contract of Mazepin after the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Haas terminated their sponsorship deal with Uralkali, a chemicals company part-owned by Mazepin’s father, Dmitry.

Uralkali said they want to reclaim the money given in sponsorship to the manufacturer.

The company said in a statement: “Uralkali has been for many years contributing considerably towards global food security and providing significant assistance to a whole range of sports associations, organisations and events both in Russia and abroad.

“The company views the team’s decision as unreasonable and believes that sports should always be free of politics and pressure from external factors.

“As most of the sponsorship funding for the 2022 season has already been transferred to Haas and given that the team terminated the sponsorship agreement before the first race of the 2022 season, Haas has thus failed to perform its obligations to Uralkali for this season.

“Uralkali shall request the immediate reimbursement of the amounts received by Haas.”

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