Nikita Mazepin “just doesn’t belong” in Formula 1.
That is the blunt assessment of a former F1 driver and regular FIA steward, after Russian rookie Mazepin’s tumultuous pre-season period spilled into the 2021 season opener in Bahrain.
Indeed, the 22-year-old repeatedly spun during qualifying, was consistently outpaced by teammate Mick Schumacher, and he took fire from his rivals by breaking a gentleman’s agreement when passing a queue of drivers in Q1.
Then, in the race, the son of Haas team financier Dmitry Mazepin crashed into retirement on lap 1. Nikita admitted it was “totally my fault”.
“That’s a guy who just doesn’t belong here,” former F1 driver Mika Salo told the Finnish broadcaster C More.
The Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet also poked fun at the Russian by calling him “Mazespin”, but Haas team boss Gunther Steiner pointed out that Schumacher also spun on Sunday.
“Both of them are just too brutal on the throttle,” he said. “But that’s something they have to learn.
“Our car is not easy to drive. If we ever manage to beat the Williams, that will be good but our aim this year must be to prepare the drivers so that they are strong when our car is good again.”
Oksana Kosachenko, the former manager of Russian driver Vitaly Petrov, also said writing off Mazepin so early is unfair.
“Let’s not make a big deal of it,” she told Tass news agency. “This is the first race and both Nikita and Schumacher say themselves that they still have a lot to learn in Formula 1.”
Mazepin also played down his horror first grand prix.
“Everything happens in three seconds and then you think about it for a very long time,” he told Match TV. “As you accumulate experience, this shouldn’t happen again.
“It was a tough weekend. I lost all the confidence that I had gained in the tests so we need to analyse everything.”
Indeed, even Haas test driver Pietro Fittipaldi, who raced the near-identical 2020 Haas in injured Romain Grosjean’s seat late last season, admitted the car is difficult.
“Hopefully the updates for Imola will make the car a little more enjoyable to drive,” he said. “I think we have a little problem with the behaviour of the car in dirty air.”