Nikita Mazepin opens up on his first half of F1 2021, with mistakes being ironed out but “no guarantee” they won’t happen again and how his working relationship with his engineers has blossomed as the season has progressed.
Mazepin and teammate Mick Schumacher are two of the three rookies on the F1 grid this year and both are at Haas, who have been struggling all season to find competitive pace at the wheel of a largely undeveloped car from 2020 which bemused veterans Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, it’s been tough going for the Russian.
A valuable learning curve being a backmarker you could say but an immensely frustrating one too especially given the inferior machinery at his hands. The current era of F1 cars are fierce and fast. Getting on top of them is not easy. “I think that the way you need to go fast in these cars is that you have to have the confidence in them,” said Mazepin to media including FormulaRapida.net, when asked about struggles with the rear of the car and dialing that out as well as adapting to the car at his disposal.
“The fundamental things you need to have is you need to be able to drive the car consistently and you need to trust that this car will take the load that you are going to put in it.” Confidence plays a big part in F1 and like he says having trust in the car gives you confidence to go faster and find those extra tenths of a second.
It’s finding that trust that takes hard work. You have to work closely with your engineers to strike a balance and find a sweet spot, as the driver, you know best because you have the practical feel out on track that numbers and simulations can’t provide. This is why having understanding with your engineers is so crucial to having a car you can trust and have confidence in.
“In the beginning of this year I didn’t feel like that car was taking that load and it wasn’t giving me the confidence I needed but through the hard work and the engineers believing in me and listening I think they’re seeing that what I’m requesting its making sense and they’re doing a fantastic job to give me the car that I am asking for,” said Mazepin.
It took time and patience clearly, but Mazepin now feels as though his improved on track performance can partly be owed to a blossoming relationship with his engineers and having a better understanding of each other. His performances definitely back this up. At the start of the season, he was making a lot of costly mistakes.
But now he’s ironed those out and looks a lot more comfortable in the car and has gathered some positive momentum heading into the second half of the season. But why were these mistakes occurring in the first place? “These cars are so much more complicated to drive and there so much easier to make mistakes with, not only because the speeds are higher but also its easy to be caught out by winds and lack of grip sometimes like when you don’t heat the tyres and yeah, these cars are unforgiving,” Mazepin explained.
The cars are indeed very aerodynamically sensitive as Mazepin alludes to which contributes to mistakes being made but as he gains experience, he will learn how to manage this, as he’s showed in recent races. “Even though people see the walls are very far, at the speeds we’re travelling if you lose control of the car, the walls come very quickly towards you,” he said.
These are the fastest F1 cars we’ve ever had, and the smallest of mistakes can have dramatic consequences has he knows all too well. Whilst Mazepin has nipped errors in the bud, fellow rookie Yuki Tsunoda has continued to stick his AlphaTauri in the barriers from time to time and teammate Schumacher is taking his turn at putting the Haas engineers through their repairing paces.
“There isn’t a certain thing, there’s no guarantee that the drivers you’ve just mentioned are not going to make a mistake soon and there’s also no guarantee that I will not make a mistake anytime soon,” said Mazepin. F1 is unpredictable and as he now knows, mistakes are so easy to make and he doesn’t have the confidence or conviction to “guarantee” no mistakes going forward. But then again, no driver can guarantee this, this is F1, they are human after all.
As a rookie however, in your first season, you can afford a few mistakes. “We operate at the fastest speed these cars can take or at least we try to be there and sometimes mistakes happen and I think especially in such early days everyone can sometimes make mistakes and that’s normal,” said Mazepin. But come 2022 there will be no room for error for him and fellow rookies. They’ve had this season to experiment, find the limit and make mistakes, expectations will be higher.
But it is good to see that Mazepin is clearly learning and learning quickly. His improved feedback and working relationship with his engineers is bound to help him now and in the long run in his fight against his teammate and to prove himself at the pinnacle of motorsport. He maintains the humble view that mistakes are always looming but for now, he’s error free, whether he can continue this into the second half remains to be seen. It will be a big help to him and Haas if he can.
The story was written by Ollie Pattas
Here’s Guenther Steiner in his response to Ralf Schumacher
Here’s Mick Schumacher on his dad’s upcoming documentary
Here’s Guenther Steiner on Mick Schumacher’s performance in Hungary