Mazepin 'learned he was axed from Haas press release'


Nikita Mazepin has revealed that the first he knew about his contract with Haas F1 being terminated was when he saw the official press release circulated by the team on Saturday morning.

Mazepin said he hadn't heard anything direct from the team, principal Guenther Steiner or owner Gene Haas, either before or since the announcement was made.

The team took the decision to axe Mazepin in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The press release also announced the immediate termination of Uralkali's title sponsorship of Haas.

"This has been an extremely painful time," Mazepin acknowledged at the start of a press conference on Wednesday. "The world was not what it was two weeks ago.

"Everything changed, and I lost the dream I had been working for for 18 years.

The FIA had previously decided to allow Russian and Belarusian drivers to compete in world motorsport under a neutral flag, and on the condition they signed up to a statement and code of conduct from the governing body about the conflict in eastern Europe.

However Motorsport UK subsequently said all drivers competing under Russian licences would be banned from events in the country, including the British Grand Prix. Other national racing authorities are believed to be considering similar measures.

While former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat decided not to fall into line with the FIA's requirements and pulled out of the World Endurance championship, Mazepin said he had been preparing to take the necessary steps to keep his seat in Formula 1.

“I had been aiming and planning to compete as a neutral,” Mazepin said. “This was firstly allowed by the FIA, the decision that they took, and I without any issues was happy to agree to that decision.

“However the night before my contract was terminated there was an additional letter [from the FIA]," he continued. “By the time that we were processing that letter and looking at options - because there were a lot of clauses in it - I received the termination of my contract early the next morning.

Nikita Mazepin (RUS) Haas F1 Team. 25.02.2022. Formula One Testing, Day Three

“There was no time to even say ‘yes’ to it, I had just been fired," he said. “I learned about the firing the same time as it had been released to the press.

“There is no legal reason to terminate the contract. I had been relieved to see that the FIA allowed us to start in neutral colours, I was hoping to drive," he continued. "So I wasn't ready for it. I didn't receive any hint, or any support to say: ‘You know, this is the decision we’ve taken, it’s going to go live in 15 minutes, just be ready for it’.

“I haven’t spoken to Guenther since I left Barcelona on the third day of testing [in February}," he added. The team had made a temporary decision to remove Uralkali branding from the car's livery and pit equipment in Spain, but Mazepin had been able to take up his allotted time on the track.

“Guenther gave me no information about what decision the team is going to take, aside from the information that he has been giving my manager up to March 4," Mazepin continued. “Then the press release came, I read it and found out that my contract had been terminated.

Nikita Mazepin (RUS) Haas F1 Team VF-22. 24.02.2022. Formula One Testing, Day Two

“I deserved more support from the team,” he stated. "If they contact me directly, I’ll happily tell them what I think of what took place."

Mazepin confirmed that he had no alternative plans to race in other championships, indicating that he would be spending time working on the fund being set up by Uralkali to support Russian sportsmen and women affected by the sanctions arising from the Ukraine conflict.

He said that the We Compete As One fund would provide financial help to those who "for political reasons out of their control, lost their ability to compete at the highest level.

"The foundation will allocate resources, both financial and non-financial, to those athletes who have spent their lives preparing for Olympics, or Paralympics, or other top events, only to find that they were forbidden from competing and collectively punished just because of the passports they held."

Mazepin himself carefully kept away from commenting directly on the Russian military offensive. “I have friends and relatives that have by force of fate found themselves on both sides of the conflict,” he said, adding: “I do not wish to make any public statements about the conflict beyond what I just said.

Nikita Mazepin (RUS) Haas F1 Team in the FIA Press Conference. 09.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

“The whole reason I made this foundation is because I value that people, all people, have the right to stay neutral," he added. “Whether they are athletes or people from other industries, that doesn’t matter."

He said that his attitude was now one of "It has happened, you can’t do anything about it, but you can make the world a better place" with the support of his father Dmitry, co-owner of Uralkali's parent company Uralchem.

Uralkali has said that it will demand a full repayment of sponsorship money already transferred to Haas for 2022, and would put it toward the running of the fund.

"We will work to find jobs to provide worthy incomes, as many of these athletes have been counting on sponsorships following their championship performances, which did not happen," Mazepin explained of the fund's purpose.

"We all know that the career of an athlete is short-term and that it requires years of intense sacrifice to perform at the highest level. When that final reward is taken away, it is devastating and no one is thinking what happens next to these athlete.

"We will also provide legal aid in cases where athletes wish to argue their status in sport," he explained. "We will help them psychologically to cope with the sense of loss and emptiness that comes with being excluded from the sport that they love."


Mazepin also said he wasn't ruling out a return to F1 at some point. "F1 is not a closed chapter for me, I will be ready to race in case there is an opportunity to return."

He said it was "good to keep all options available", but it's clearly not going to be at Haas. He said that he "“doesn’t want to go back to a place that doesn’t want him”, and that he no longer trusts the US-based squad.

“We will look at it and decide what we do,” he said, adding that discussions were ongoing as to whether to legally challenge Haas' decision to terminate his contact.

Mazepin added that a number of fellow F1 drivers had contacted him with messages of support, including George Russell, Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez. "It was nothing political, just on a personal level," he said. "Very simple messages of support when they’d learned I lost the drive."

Haas have yet to announce who will take over Mazepin's seat for the 2022 season which starts in just ten days time.

The team's reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will take charge of the VF-22 for Thursday's first day of pre-season testing at Bahrain, with Antonio Giovinazzi, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen among those believed to be in the running for the full-time slot.

"I wish all the best to the drivers who will replace me," insisted Mazepin. "They have nothing to do with the existing situation."

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