Former Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin will be back behind the wheel of a race car next month in Dubai, for the first race of the new season of the Asian Le Mans Series.
The 23-year-old Russian made his way up through Formula 2 and GP3 before being promoted to a full-time F1 race seat with Haas in 2021, thanks in part to the team's sponsorship deal with his father's company Uralkali.
But the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent FIA sanctions against all drivers and businesses from Russia meant Haas dropped him at the start of last year, replacing him with Kevin Magnussen.
Haas' title sponsorship with Uralkali was also terminated, with the team agreeing a new deal with Moneygram for 2023.
Mazepin has been unable to participate in international FIA racing events for the last 12 months, a rally in his home country the only opportunity he's had to get behind the wheel during the period.
But he has now secured a deal to put him on the grid of the Asian Le Mans Series with 99 Racing. He'll share their LMP2-class Oreco 07 entry with factory Lexus driver Ben Barnicoat and bronze-rated Felix Porteiro.
"I am delighted to be making my return to racing in the Asian Le Mans Series. Together with my teammates at 99 Racing, I’m hoping to have a great experience competing in the sport I love," Mazepin said.
United Autosports and Algarve Pro Racing will also be fielding entries in this year's championship, comprising part of a nine-car all-Oreco premier class, with a total of 48 entries across LMP2, LMP3 and CT categories.
“We’re happy to confirm that we’ll be entering the Asian Le Mans Series," said Dan Hodder, sporting director for 99 Racing.
"It is a great championship for 99 Racing to launch into sportscar racing, which is currently going through a resurgence. “With 48 entries, it is once again a highly competitive field.
"As Ben [Barnicoat] previously finished runner-up in the Asian le Mans, he will be a key component of us getting up-to-speed as the new team on the block.
“Of course, it’s an opportunity for Nikita to try something new in a professional yet more relaxed environment to what he’s accustomed to in F1.
"We can already see his desire and commitment to be competitive from the outset."
The Asian Le Mans Series is staged over consecutive weekends in February. The first two rounds will be at Dubai Autodrome on February 11 and 12, and the second half of the season takes place at Yas Marina on February 18 and 19.