F1: Nikita Mazepin admits 'huge mistake' as Haas driver addresses social media video controversy
Video appeared on Nikita Mazepin's Instagram late last year of newly-signed Haas Formula 1 driver inappropriately touching woman's chest; Russian, 22, says he takes full responsibility for "huge mistake" in first media briefing
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 05/03/21 12:07am
Nikita Mazepin has said he made a "huge mistake" and is "not proud" of his actions as the new Haas driver addressed the media for the first time about the controversial video that appeared on his Instagram last year.
Shortly after being confirmed as a Haas driver for 2021 in December, a video was posted on Mazepin's Instagram stories of the Russian, then in feeder series Formula 2, appearing to grope a female passenger's chest during a car journey.
Haas condemned the conduct as "abhorrent" while Mazepin issued a since-deleted apology on social media before the team dealt with the matter internally, keeping details private but reaffirming that he will drive for them in 2021.
He spoke in a media call for the first time since the incident on Thursday, taking full responsibility ahead of his debut season in the sport.
"How I reflect on my actions is pretty clear, I'm not proud of it," said Mazepin, 22.
"I didn't behave as I meant to behave, being in Formula 1 the transition phase of realising what I have achieved has been very short and I didn't adapt to it as quick as I should have.
"I've taken responsibility for it and I'm ready to keep doing so."
Mazepin, who thanked the team for their support, vowed that he has learned from the incident.
"As a racing driver you just focus on your job because it is very demanding when you're on track and you try not to make mistakes out of the circuit," he stated.
"It happened, I made a huge mistake. I've taken responsibility for it, I've learned from it and I'm looking forward to a clean year ahead."
Asked whether he understood that what he did was not acceptable behaviour as a person in general and not just an F1 driver, Mazepin added: "I have taken the responsibility for it both on and off the circuit.
"We as human beings have to show a certain behaviour towards each other to live in a calm, humanitarian world so I'm confident I will be one of those humans from now on."
Mazepin was also asked what in particular he had learned, specifically relating to the treatment of women and his conduct with women.
"Graduating to Formula 1 and being a Formula 1 driver means that all of a sudden you become a sort of example to a lot of young kids who are aiming to get to the same championship," he said.
"With that, you have to bring a certain way of behaviour towards yourself. I haven't done it. I was too late to realise that, unfortunately.
"In regards to what I've learnt is quite clear, first of all with the behaviour that you're meant to bring with yourself. Second, how you are meant to act on social media and off social media."
Mazepin insisted regarding the video appearing on social media that "it wasn't my hands that put it there", but refused to comment on whether he apologised to the woman who he inappropriately touched.
"I think a privacy matter is very important in this case. I don't think it would be correct to bring other people into this very wide media discussion," he stated. "Therefore I'm not going to do that."
Mazepin vows to do talking on the track
The young driver has also been subject to a backlash on social media following the incident, and said he was "not going to put words in people's mouths" and that he would have his "racing do the talking".
"Obviously the transition phase between Formula 2 and Formula 1 is very big, so there's a lot in your mind," he said. "The learning curve is very steep when you have to get into your first race. So obviously that takes a very big part of your brain capacity.
"In regards to the image that it created, I'm not going to be able to put words in people's mouths.
"I am pretty sure that I will be delivering on track and I'm confident with the effort that I'm putting in and the direction I am taking, the results will be there. I am going to try and have the racing do the talking."
He said Haas' support during the last few months had been "very helpful".
"I would like to say a big thank you to the team because they have been really supportive in helping me learn," Mazepin explained.
"They've been very patient in taking the time and helping me learn this matter further. I think that in my education phase on the whole behaviour in this incident, I'm way further than I've ever been."
Mazepin will partner Mick Schumacher in 2021, with the season starting on March 28 following three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain from March 12.