Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner says Nikita Mazepin’s future within the team is not guaranteed, amidst the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
The American-owned team has removed traces of Russian fertiliser company and Haas’ title sponsors Uralkali from its livery and assets at the Barcelona circuit, and ran in a plain white livery on Friday as a result. When the livery was first introduced last season, many noted its resemblance to the colours of the Russian flag, and the fact that the white, red and blue colours were not previously associated with Uralkali’s brand.
Formula 1 has since announced that the Russian GP, scheduled for a September slot in the 2022 calendar, would not go ahead under the current circumstances. Mazepin’s father, Dmitry Mazepin, is the chair of the company which is likely going to be financially affected by the political ramifications of the crisis.
Therefore Mazepin’s future as one of Haas’s Formula 1 drivers is naturally thrown into doubt. Steiner says the situation needs to be resolved on the driver front, however he reassures that the team itself will continue and is not reliant on this sponsorship.
Speaking to media including FormulaRapida.net, Steiner first apologised for his absence from yesterday’s press conference as he was occupied in multiple meetings. The Italian then answered all the questions on the topic of Uralkali along with Mazepin. He revealed of next week’s crucial meeting which is when they will decide the future course.
Here’s what all was discussed:
Removal of Uralkali from livery and paddock facilities –
Steiner: “We removed that yesterday [Uralkali stickers], we have to sort out all the legal stuff, which I cannot speak about until next week. And everything that you just said we will walk through next week. In the moment, I’m not going to do it today. We made the decision yesterday with our team partners that this is what we’re going to do [but] I need to work on the rest next week.”
Initial reaction and discussions to remove the stickers –
Steiner: “Obviously, in the morning yesterday, when I got up and looked at the news there were a few words there, which are better to not say here, and then I went straight to talk with Gene [Haas] about it. And then we got in contact with our other partners, and then we made a decision. As you saw we reacted very quickly to it, so you can imagine it was some very straight talks, obviously, you need to keep the people involved because the headquarters of Haas Automations is in California which is nine hours behind, so I had to wait until they could get in touch with the both of us, Haas Automation as well, because they are the biggest partner on our car, and speak with that with the CEO there as well to talk it through. But then we were ready in the afternoon, and then we just wanted to get a test day over and then be ready to do what we do. Because as I said, we actually quickly we are a small team, which is sometimes good. We have direct lines of communication, and we just executed them.”
Steiner: “Nobody planned this and so we had to take a decision because we have got more partners now as well, and I think this was the right decision to take. There is no setback for the competition side of the team because of this. None at all, so we just need to go through the commercial issues. Obviously, as I said before, we will do that in the next weeks but it just adds to the to do list. Nothing more.”
Mood of the team and your health –
Steiner: “I’m actually not too good. Not too bad. So yeah, thank you for worrying about me. But I’ve actually been through a few tough things. So, it was hard work and a group of people helping me on this we cannot do this on our own. But the team out on the race track, they are not affected by this. I spoke with them yesterday and told them there is nothing to worry for them. There is everything is fine. This is a bump in the road which we didn’t expect that nobody expected. Nobody wants it. So I think as a team we took the right decision in this moment in time to send a message this way to everybody you know, and the team is the team is behind us and what we are doing.”
How is Gene Haas taking this situation –
Steiner: “He stands behind the decision, there is no issue with that one with him. He stands behind the position, he owns the team. So he knows how to do what we are doing and he knew what we were doing and he supports it.”
Financial hit –
Steiner: “No, it is a headache because it is work but it’s not something which disturbs the team or the competition side, and financially we are okay. It has no implementation on the team, how we are running it or how we’re doing how we plan the season. There is more ways to get the funding, so that there is no issue with that one.”
Planning a contingency for long –
Steiner: “No, we haven’t been planning for this because you don’t know what happens. Obviously, the monitor the situation service, we are not sitting there ignorantly waiting, something happens. But when it happens, you need to see how it develops and diagnose. I’ve never experienced something like this and so I didn’t know how this would go down. I think we just manage it the same way going forward.”
Pressure by the US government to stop the Uralkali deal –
Steiner: “No, we didn’t we have not been in contact with the government at all.”
Steiner: “I mean, up to now, the official sanctions from any of the Governments had no influence on our business. I would need to check with my finance department about Swift, if it is switched off. How that works, because Uralkali is a global company. So I don’t really know how that would work out.
Worth sticking with the Mazepins:
Steiner: “I will see how it develops as I said before over the next week or this scenario in Ukraine and then we go from there and obviously there are legal issues we have to go through and attend to and see what is coming out there.”
How’s Nikita handling the situation –
Steiner: “He puts a tough face on it. I mean, for sure it bothers him because his home country, Russia, so about guarantees, there is no guarantees anywhere. So as I said also before, we just need to see how this all develops where it goes, there is more than the F1 team involved here. There are Governments involved in this one so I have no idea what is coming from that side.”
Nikita Mazepin’s future needs to be resolved –
Steiner: “It needs to be resolved. As I said before, it not everything depends from us here, what’s happening. There are Governments involved. And I think we need to see also the situation how it develops in Ukraine.”
Mick or Nikita asking any questions regarding their future –
Steiner: “No, I mean, I spoke with both of them and I said for the team that nothing would change, if there is some changes in the races because of the political situation. The FOM will deal with it, I mean, I think they did very well with a pandemic, they will find solutions whatever happens for this as well, or the best they can do. So they should focus on their job which is being a race car driver and not what is around them, and we will look into that one and organise everything to make sure that we go racing as much as we can and as good as we can.”
Tweet from Jeremy Clarkson and Nikita
Steiner: “I think you’re right. I heard about a tweet from Jeremy Clarkson. Maybe it was done in a moment of rage or something because it’s quite direct, but the best thing is not to look at what is there. It seems that at the moment the best thing is not to think about the moment. So we just need to crack on and see about how this ends up and walk through it, and hopefully he can keep his head up and keep on going.”
Any fresh contact with Andretti –
Steiner: “No, we had no contact or dialogue with Michael or Mario.”
To my fans and followers – it's a difficult time and I am not in control over a lot of what is being said and done. I'm choosing to focus on what I CAN control by working hard and doing my best for my @HaasF1Team . My deepest thanks for your understanding and support. 🙏
— Nikita Mazepin (@nikita_mazepin) February 25, 2022
The story was written by Danny Herbert (audio from Darshan Chokhani)
Here’s news on F1 cancelling Russian GP
Here’s news on Haas running plain livery
Here’s last news from F1 on Russian GP