Haas driver Nikita Mazepin has emphasised that the Haas team did not put any resources into the development of their car in 2021, which is why he struggled to find performance during his debut season.
Mazepin joined Haas last year as a rookie alongside Mick Schumacher after his father, Dmitry, invested in the team through his Uralkali firm, who became their name partner.
The Russian was out-qualified 20 times in 22 races by the 23-year-old, and several crashes along with perceivable excessive aggression on track and controversies off it made him a less than endearing character in the paddock.
Such was the extent of his deficit to Schumacher at times that Dmitry began to question the set-ups of the cars, issuing an ultimatum to team bosses that he would pull his funding if parity was not restored between the drivers.
Team principal Guenther Steiner confirmed that the cars had different chassis, but the distinct one was being alternated between the two drivers.
Mazepin would ultimately finish the season 21st in the Drivers’ Standings, behind Robert Kubica who had twice deputised for the ill Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo.
It is not a secret that Haas spent most of last year preparing for the new technical regulations this season, so optimisation of the car to Mazepin’s style was always going to be restricted and, as such, he feels some of the criticism of him is a little harsh.
“Last year, the team invested $0 into developing a car unlike the other 9 teams and we were competing for P19/P20,” he told the BBC.
“So it’s harsh to judge it in the very early days of my career. Plus I had a four-year contract.”
This four-year contract was ended after the termination of Haas’ deal with Uralkali amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, and Mazepin has also been sanctioned by the European Union due to his father’s links with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
He has set up the “We Compete As One” foundation to provide help and support to Russian and Belarusian athletes who have paid the price for Putin’s actions.
“My foundation is going to support all the athletes that have lost the chance to compete at a very high level due to a non-sporting reason,” he affirmed.
He labelled claims that he is a “fan” of Putin as “incorrect,” affirming that he is merely a “citizen of my own country.”
“My only connection to my country’s president is through the sport that I do and the time when I met him was at the racetrack after I had won the race and that was to discuss that,” he stated.
Mazepin was replaced at Haas by the returning Kevin Magnussen, who scored points the first two races of the season.