Gene Haas, owner of the Haas team, has said that he and his team are in the process of evaluating who would the best fit for their vacant seat now that Nikita Mazepin has left the sport.
The Banbury-based team took the decision to drop Uralkali after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put a heavy strain on their partnership, and as a result Mazepin, son of oligarch Dmitry who paid for his drive, had his contract terminated.
The 23-year-old saw this as unfair, taking to social media to stress that he had complied fully with the FIA’s new requirements around Russian and Belarusian drivers and competitors in F1, but claimed this had been “completely ignored” by his team.
Ultimately, Haas felt as though he had no other choice but to cut ties with the Russian company.
“There was a lot of intense criticism about the Ukrainian invasion and it was just getting overwhelming. We can’t deal with all that, our other sponsors can’t deal with all that,” Haas told the Associated Press.
Team principal Guenther Steiner has previously suggested that Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas’ test and reserve driver who deputised for the injured Romain Grosjean in late 2020, would be first in line to replace the Russian.
Indeed, journalist Sergio Rodriguez recently told Formula1News.co.uk that “Pietro will start the season.”
Haas confirmed that Fittipaldi will be in the car for the second pre-season test in Bahrain on 10 March, but said he would prefer to have a driver with more “experience” for the 2022 campaign.
“We’re in the process of looking at several candidates, we’ll see who is available and what we have to deal with, but we’ll have somebody by Wednesday,” he explained.
“Pietro will definitely be in it, that’s what he’s for, he’s the test driver.
“I think we’re looking. I think we’d obviously like to get someone with a bit more actual experience.
“We just have to see what’s available.”
Upon agreeing their sponsorship deal with Uralkali last year, the Haas team designed a red, white and blue livery – an homage to the coalition between America and Russia – and the 69-year-old rubbishes suggestions that his American outfit became a Russian team.
“Haas has always been the major, primary sponsor, I don’t know why people said it became a Russian team. Haas Automation was always on the car,” he stated.
Oscar Piastri and Jason Daruvala have also been touted as possible options to fill the void at Haas alongside Mick Schumacher.