Nikita Mazepin said he felt cheated by his team for not providing him with any notice prior to his contract being terminated last Saturday.
After being fired by Haas on Saturday, Russian driver Nikita Mazepin is considering suing the company, but he was dealt another setback on Wednesday when the European Union sanctioned him.
The 23-year-old said that he had received support from fellow members of the grid after being dropped by the American squad due to his family’s ties to Vladimir Putin.
Dmitry Mazepin, Mazepin’s oligarch father, is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He, like Nikita, will have his assets frozen and face a travel ban from the EU. He was a part-owner of Haas’s primary sponsors, fertiliser business Uralkali before the sponsorship contract was pulled down along with his son’s driver contract with the same team.
After Haas Formula 1 team terminated Nikita Mazepin’s driver’s contract without notice in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Nikita Mazepin believes he has lost “confidence” in the team.
The sacked driver, who was replaced by Kevin Magnussen at Haas, also stated that he plans to establish a foundation to assist Russian athletes who have been excluded from international participation owing to the war.
The 23-year-old Russian said he felt cheated by his team for not providing him with any notice prior to his contract being terminated last Saturday.
Speaking from Moscow, Mazepin said: “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 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.”
“I value relationships a lot… I believe that F1 is a unique sport because it is very much about team building.”
“I was very disappointed because of the way it was handled.”
“I’d like to think I’m a young man at 23, and I was not ready for it. I didn’t receive any hint or any support to say that this is a decision we’ve taken, it’s going to go live in 15 minutes, just be ready for it.”
“I obviously had a lot of messages from people, and I just learned at the same time as [the media] did.”
Despite the fact that there are no other open spots on the grid for 2022, Mazepin claimed that he reserves the right to pursue legal action in order to be restored as a Formula 1 driver, but he recognized that a reunion with Haas is doubtful.
“I would say that it‘s good to keep all options available,” Mazepin added. “But I definitely don’t want to go back to a place which doesn’t want me.”
“And as you know, F1 is a dangerous sport. And you have to rely on and believe in the team that you‘re working with.”
“It’s a question of safety… and I think it’s fair to say I do not have that trust in them.”
“In regard to the support from the team, I do feel like I should have had more because there has been no legal reason that could enable the team to terminate my contract on legal terms.”
Instead, Mazepin said he would devote his time and attention to building his new foundation, which will assist fellow Russian sportsmen who have been prevented from participating in their sports as a result of international sanctions.
The International Olympic Committee recommended to regulatory organizations around the world last week that Russian athletes be barred from international competition and that regional and international tournaments in Russia be suspended.
The FIA has come under fire for not going so far as to prohibit Russian-licensed drivers from competing in races, despite the fact that numerous national organisations have taken steps to restrict Russians from competing in events in their jurisdiction.
Mazepin claimed his charity, dubbed ‘We Compete as One’ which is an obvious and apparently unironic homage to Formula One’s ‘We Race as One’ diversity, inclusion, and sustainability program would help his compatriots who had been unfairly targeted as athletes.
“We all know that the career of an athlete is a short one, and that it requires years of intense sacrifice to perform at the highest level,” he said.
“When that final reward is taken away, it is devastating. And no one is thinking what happens next to these athletes. I will be addressing this.”
The foundation will be supported by Uralkali, a chemical corporation that has been a long-time supporter of Mazepin and a past sponsor of the Haas team. Uralkali is owned by Uralchem, which is owned by Dmitry Mazepin, Nikita’s father.
Uralkali issued a statement on Thursday requesting Haas reimburse money for the 2022 season, which it claims it paid in advance.
It’s unclear whether new European Union penalties targeting the Mazepin family and their chemical companies will derail these efforts or prevent Haas from reimbursing any funds.