Nikita Mazepin: Former Haas driver criticises team after sacking, Kevin Magnussen considered as replacement
Haas severed ties last week with Nikita Mazepin and title sponsor Uralkali, owned by his billionaire father Dmitry, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine; Mazepin and his father have both been added to the list of Russians facing EU sanctions
Last Updated: 09/03/22 6:06pm
Sacked Formula One driver Nikita Mazepin says his dismissal by Haas left him with no "trust" in the team.
US-owned team Haas had been under immense pressure to act on Russian driver Mazepin's future following his country's invasion of Ukraine, with sport around the world cutting ties with Russia.
The FIA, F1's governing body, had stated that Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete in their events under a neutral flag, as long as they officially agreed to the organisation's principles of peace and neutrality, but Mazepin says he was sacked before he had the chance to do so.
Mazepin and his father, oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, have meanwhile been added to the list of Russians facing EU sanctions, the EU stating that the latter "is involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine".
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- F1 terminates Russian GP contract
Speaking from Moscow for the first time since his dismissal, Mazepin said: "I was ready to agree with this and consider myself neutral.
"When they added an additional letter which I had to sign, I did not look at it because my contract had already been terminated."
Mazepin also said he discovered his contract was terminated through a press release, and did not rule out taking legal action against Haas.
"I do not want to be at a team that doesn't want me," Mazepin said.
"Formula One is a dangerous sport and you have to rely on the team you are working with. It is a question of safety, and it is fair to say I don't have that trust in them.
"It is good to keep all (legal) options open. There was no legal reason that could enable the team to terminate my contract.
"I was very disappointed with the way it was handled. I was told if the FIA allowed me to compete on their rules, and I agreed to them, there would be no actions to remove me from the seat.
"I have not heard from the team since it happened and I learnt about the firing of me the same time it was released to the press.
"I am a young man and I was not ready for it. I did not receive any hint, or any support, or be told that this is the decision we have taken. I learnt the same time as you did.
"I lost my dream which I have been working towards for 18 years. I didn't imagine the situation of losing my drive would happen so soon.
"But I absolutely do not see Formula One as a closed chapter. I am going to stay in race condition and I will be ready to take on an opportunity if it comes."
Haas eye Magnussen as Mazepin replacement
Haas are exploring the possibility of former driver Kevin Magnussen replacing Mazepin ahead of the new season.
Magnussen, who raced for Haas for four seasons before the team let him go at the end of the 2020 campaign, has also previously driven for McLaren and Renault.
The Dane has been exploring different forms of racing since his departure from F1, competing in the IMSA SportsCar Championship and IndyCar Series, but now looks set to race alongside German Mick Schumacher when the season starts in Bahrain on March 20 - live on Sky Sports.
Brazilian reserve Pietro Fittipaldi will test for Haas in Bahrain on Thursday following the departure of Mazepin.
A spokesman said the cars had arrived late at the Sakhir circuit on Tuesday after the air freight was delayed by a technical issue.
"This delay will impact our programme but we are targeting being out on track for the second session Thursday afternoon with Pietro Fittipaldi driving the VF-22," he said, giving no further details.
Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time world champion Emerson, stood in for Romain Grosjean at the 2020 Sakhir and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.
Haas finished last in 2021 and were the only team not to score a point after focusing fully on developing their car for this year's major rule changes.
Mazepin's billionaire father looks to reclaim sponsorship money from Haas
Mazepin's father, oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, is a part-owner of Haas' former title sponsor, Uralkali - a contract which was also torn up - and an associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Uralkali published a statement on Wednesday demanding "immediate reimbursement" of money already transferred to Haas for the forthcoming season.
The statement said: "Uralkali has been for many years contributing considerably towards global food security and providing significant assistance to a whole range of sports associations, organisations and events both in Russia and abroad. The company views the team's decision as unreasonable and believes that sports should always be free of politics and pressure from external factors.
"Given the above, Uralkali intends to protect its interests in line with applicable legal procedures and reserves its rights to initiate judicial proceedings, claim damages and seek repayment of the significant amounts Uralkali had paid for the 2022 Formula One season.
"As most of the sponsorship funding for the 2022 season has already been transferred to Haas and given that the team terminated the sponsorship agreement before the first race of the 2022 season, Haas has thus failed to perform its obligations to Uralkali for this season.
"Uralkali shall request the immediate reimbursement of the amounts received by Haas. The refund from Haas and the remaining part of Uralkali's sponsor financing for 2022 will be used to establish the We Compete As One athlete support foundation."
Mazepin: I've had support from other drivers
Mazepin revealed that he had received messages of support from other F1 drivers, including Britain's George Russell.
"I appreciated the small number of drivers who expressed their support for me," said Mazepin.
"Sergio (Perez), Valtteri (Bottas), Charles (Leclerc) and George (Russell) all contacted me.
"They know how important the situation is, and they showed their support after I lost the opportunity to compete.
"The messages were nothing political but just on a personal level - to keep my head up because athletes have been broken and lives have been destroyed after a decision like that."
During a scripted five-minute monologue, Mazepin also announced the creation of a foundation called, We Compete As One, to support athletes 'forbidden from competing, and collectively punished just because of the passports they hold'.
He added: "It has been four days since I was sacked and I can say there is nobody out there to protect athletes who end up in this position and I want to be the first one to help."