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Nikita Mazepin reveals support from George Russell and F1 drivers after Haas dismissal

Mazepin was let go by Haas after they terminated their contract with sponsor Uralkali, who are part-owned by the driver’s father.

Philip Duncan
Wednesday 09 March 2022 12:26 GMT
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Sacked Formula One driver Nikita Mazepin revealed he received a message of support from Britain’s George Russell following his dismissal by Haas.

The Russian driver, speaking for the first time since he was fired, said he discovered his contract was terminated through a press release, and did not rule out taking legal action against the American-owned team.

Mazepin’s father, oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, is a part-owner of Haas’ former title sponsor, Uralkali – a contract which was also torn up – and an associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Uralkali published a statement on Wednesday demanding “immediate reimbursement” of money already transferred to Haas for the forthcoming season.

The FIA has allowed Russian drivers to continue under a neutral flag following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the sporting federation also said all drivers must agree to its principles of peace and neutrality and “acknowledge the strong commitment made by the FIA to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and all of those suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict”.

Mazepin said he did not consider signing the document because he was dismissed by Haas the following day.

“I appreciated the small number of drivers who expressed their support for me,” said Mazepin, speaking from Moscow.

“Sergio (Perez), Valtteri (Bottas), Charles (Leclerc) and George (Russell) all contacted me.

“They know how important the situation is, and they showed their support after I lost the opportunity to compete.

“The messages were nothing political but just on a personal level – to keep my head up because athletes have been broken and lives have been destroyed after a decision like that.”

Nikita Mazepin shared the grid with George Russell last season (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

During a scripted five-minute monologue, Mazepin announced the creation of a foundation called, We Compete As One, to support athletes “forbidden from competing, and collectively punished just because of the passports they hold”.

Mazepin was asked on three occasions whether he felt it was was realistic he could continue in F1 given his father’s links to Putin.

He replied: “There have been two stages in the decision of allowing Russian drivers to continue.

“Firstly an online vote held by the FIA where everyone had a say and they ruled drivers from Russia and Belarus could compete if they are neutral.

“I was ready to agree with this and consider myself neutral.

“When they added an additional letter which I had to sign, I did not look at it because my contract had already been terminated.

“It has been four days since I was sacked and I can say there is nobody out there to protect athletes who end up in this position and I want to be the first one to help.”

Mazepin was removed by Haas last Saturday, a fortnight before the opening round in Bahrain.

“I do not want to be at a team that doesn’t want me,” he said.

“Formula One is a dangerous sport and you have to rely on the team you are working with. It is a question of safety, and it is fair to say I don’t have that trust in them.

Mazepin in action for Haas during the pre-season test in Barcelona (Bradley Collyer/PA) (PA Wire)

“It is good to keep all (legal) options open. There was no legal reason that could enable the team to terminate my contract.

“I was very disappointed with the way it was handled. I was told if the FIA allowed me to compete on their rules, and I agreed to them, there would be no actions to remove me from the seat.

“I have not heard from the team since it happened and I learnt about the firing of me the same time it was released to the press.

“I am a young man and I was not ready for it. I did not receive any hint, or any support, or be told that this is the decision we have taken. I learnt the same time as you did.

“I lost my dream which I have been working towards for 18 years. I didn’t imagine the situation of losing my drive would happen so soon.

“But I absolutely do not see Formula One as a closed chapter. I am going to stay in race condition and I will be ready to take on an opportunity if it comes.”

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