Haas’ reported refusal to return $13 million in sponsorship to ousted title sponsor Uralkali has been slammed by Russian F1 commentator Alexey Popov.
“I understand that they were under pressure and it was impossible not to break the contract with Nikita,” the Match TV broadcaster admitted.
“But after they cooperated for a year, they survived last year with Uralkali’s money and built a good car this year.
“So it was possible for them to behave differently than this,” Popov added.
In fact, Popov says he is in “total shock” about the latest reports about Haas.
“Remember how the Mazepins begged for a new chassis and paid more than the sponsorship contract to build it,” he said.
“I’ve heard stories that Haas employees left because their salaries were too low and Dmitry Mazepin paid them personally to stay.
“And now, it’s not just ‘we took the money and we won’t give it back’, but also ‘you need for pay us extra even through your driver is no longer in the car’,” Popov added.
Nikita Mazepin, who was even named personally in the sanctions against Russia and Vladimir Putin, also hit out at Haas over the financial dispute.
“The big problem is that in this sport, teams are allowed not to return sponsor funds, violating the terms of the contract and even demanding to pay more,” he said.
“At the same time, they continue to say that they do not want money from Russia.”
Former Russian F1 driver’s ex-manager Oksana Kosachenko says Haas’ position reeks of “dishonesty”.
“I am sure that a fairly serious team of lawyers will now work for Uralkali to correct this process,” she told the Sport-Express newspaper.
Finally, 23-year-old Mazepin hit back at the idea that he is in Putin’s “inner circle”.
“I think everyone is now in the inner circle,” he smirked. “It seems as if every businessman, every athlete and every artist deals with the Kremlin on a daily basis, and of course that is not the case.”
The Russian driver said he is not yet hanging up his F1 helmet.
“I just have to be patient and wait for things to settle down,” said Mazepin. “I also don’t know who to go back with because obviously the Haas team didn’t have the best behaviour in my opinion.”