‘Nothing political’ – Russell sends message of support to Mazepin

George Russell got in touch with Nikita Mazepin to wish him well after Haas' decision to drop him following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Mercedes driver George Russell has revealed that he has sent a personal message of support to Nikita Mazepin after the Russian was sacked by Haas.

Mazepin entered Formula 1 last year backed by the funding of his oligarch father Dmitry, who part owns the Russia-based Uralkali firm that also became name partner of the Banbury squad.

He looked set to once again partner Mick Schumacher this season, but Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine led the FIA to rule that no Russian or Belarusian colours, flags or symbols are to appear in global motorsport, before heavy sanctions imposed on Moscow made it implausible that Uralkali could continue to fund Haas.

Gene Haas’ team, who had already removed Uralkali branding before the FIA’s ruling, would then end their partnership with the potash producer, with the 23-year-old’s contract being terminated as a result.

The Russian was left disgruntled by the decision, affirming that he deserved better treatment from the team with whom he began his career.

“I deserved more support from the team,” he stated.

“There is no legal reason to terminate the contract. I was relieved to see that the FIA allowed us to start in neutral colours, I was hoping to drive,” he said having previously stated that his compliance with FIA’s contingencies for Russian drivers competing in motorsport had been “completely ignored” by Haas.

“[But] everything changed and I lost the dream I had been working for for 18 years.”

He revealed that he heard about his removal from the team through the same channels as everybody else, and was not personally contacted by team principal Guenther Steiner

Article continues below

“I heard about my kick from Haas, like everyone else, from the press. I didn’t deserve it,” he added.

“I did not speak to Gunther personally and I still haven’t.”

The Moscow-born racer disclosed that Russell was one of a host of drivers who contacted him following his departure, and the 24-year-old has expressed his sympathy for the now former F1 driver, maintaining that all drivers are in opposition to the war Russia has started in Ukraine.

“There was absolutely nothing political. I think all of our views, of what is going on in the world, are absolutely united,” he said.

“But obviously for Nikita, I’ve known him personally for a very long time. I was team-mates with him.

“Obviously, regardless of his background, he is a driver who has dreamt of Formula 1 his whole career and reached it. Now that dream has disappeared for the obvious reasons.

“I just said ‘Keep you chin up’, as simple as that. Nothing political in it. Just personal.”

Kevin Magnussen has made a sensational return to Haas to replace the young Russian, and having headed to IMSA to race with Chip Ganassi at the end of 2020, he was delighted to receive the call.

“I was very surprised but equally very excited to receive the call from Haas,” he said.

“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of an F1 car.”

The Dane is expected to take to the wheel of the Haas car on Friday afternoon in Bahrain after Mick Schumacher’s morning session.