Haas F1 driver Nikita Mazepin has spoken candidly about his relationship with Mick Schumacher, adding that it is “fair to say” they do not have the best one.
The pair entered the sport together with the American team last year, replacing the outgoing Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen who both went to ply their trade in the US.
Haas scored points on just two occasions in 2020, and another difficult year was anticipated last season.
Indeed, they found themselves at the back of the grid, now surpassed by Williams in the Constructors’ Championship.
They managed a best finish of 13th at the Hungarian Grand prix with Schumacher last summer, while Mazepin ended 14th in the same race in his best finish of 2021.
The pair had to endure their fair share of crashes in 2021, while they also became intertwined with each other on track in ways that irritated both of them.
The most notable incident between them arrived at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, in which the Russian almost fed his Haas partner into the wall down the home straight.
From there on in, it looked as though the two drivers’ relationship deteriorated into a strictly professional one, and this is something the 22-year-old Russian does not rebuke.
“I’m not sure it was blown out of proportion,” he told Autosport when asked if the issues at the team had been overly hyped.
He conceded that he endured some “difficult times” partnering the German last year.
“I think there were some difficult times when he was learning [about] me, I was learning [about] him.
“Every time I go out there, I want to be the car finishing in front and I’ve always wanted that. And I will never stop wanting that until I leave the paddock and hang my pass on a wall,” he explained.
However, the Moscow-born racer does not believe that the issues with his fellow rookie proved detrimental to the team, instead seeing the positives in the fact that there was no undulation on the emotional chart.
“But now it’s a very neutral relationship that doesn’t have any highs and lows, and it’s just consistent. And that’s the only way to achieve good results in this sport.”
Mazepin confirmed that “it’s fair to say” that he and Schumacher do not enjoy a particularly blossoming friendship together either, but the 22-year-old stressed that he is in Formula 1 to win races, not make friends.
“I’m here to win races. I know that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future but the way to make it happen is to get the best car you can and to set it up in the fastest way possible. And that takes two people to do it,” he added.
He reckons that the German is on the same wavelength as him in that regard.
“I’m sure Mick has exactly the same thoughts, ambitions and goals in his mindset, so we do what’s necessary for the team.
“And I actually think we always try with both sides of the garage to go a bit beyond in achieving those goals,” he explained.
While admitting that there is an unwritten yet sacred law against colliding with a team-mate, Mazepin maintains that there is still scope to battle hard with Schumacher, and vice-versa.
“Of course, you have to slightly wind down your approach, be more careful when you are fighting with a team-mate because in F1 it’s sort of really critical if anything happens between the two cars from the same team.
“But at the end of the day, we are here for Nikita Mazepin who races from Russia and the other side is such and such from whichever country,” he added.
The Russian is fully aware that the team has certain requirements from him, but he said he would walk away if he one day sacrifices his own ambitions as a driver.
“I’m living my own life and I want to make my own life the best I can, and I want to make sure I have as many trophies [as possible] in my house from F1 or any other series before I go into doing something else.
“So yes, I’m a team player, but if I have to give up, I will never do [it],” he stated.
Schumacher out-qualified Mazepin 20 times in the 22 races last season and comprehensively outperformed the Russian on race day as well.
Mazepin and Schumacher have been retained by Haas next year, following the American outfit’s first pointless season since they joined Formula 1 in 2016.