It’s fair to say Nikita Mazepin’s first two race weekends in Formula 1 were poor, with him crashing out of his debut in Bahrain after just a matter of seconds and being the only driver to finish last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix two laps down on the leaders.
The F1 community has been quick to mock Mazepin for his poor start to life in the pinnacle of motorsport, with his numerous spins resulting in him being dubbed “Mazespin” on social media.
This is unsurprising, as he became public enemy number one after he groped a model in December, and given the fact that, frankly speaking, he is only in Formula 1 because of his father’s financial backing.
But, how bad really is the controversial Russian and does he deserve his place in Formula 1?
His first two races certainly add weight to the argument that he doesn’t belong on the F1 grid, but it’s important to remember that Haas have the worst car this season – and their 2021 challenger seems to be very difficult to stay on top of.
This has been evidenced by Mazepin’s team-mate, Mick Schumacher, also struggling with Haas’ 2021 car and having several spins and incidents of his own, both in Bahrain and Imola.
Nevertheless, it has to be noted that the Russian has made far more mistakes than Schumacher, and things also look bad for Mazepin when you compare their qualifying records in Formula 1.
Schumacher has outqualified his team-mate at both of the opening two grand prix of the season, with the German outqualifying Mazepin by eight-tenths of a second at Bahrain and around half-a-second at Imola.
In equal machinery, such margins are a cause for concern, especially when you consider the fact that Schumacher wasn’t particularly impressive in qualifying in his junior career (he didn’t secure a single pole position in his Championship-winning Formula 2 campaign last year, for example.)
And, even when it comes to race pace, Schumacher isn’t a very strong benchmark for Mazepin, as throughout his junior single-seater career, he hasn’t performed at a very high level in his first season in any given category.
As for Mazepin’s own junior career, he finished fifth in the F2 standings last year, third in the 2019-2020 F3 Asian Championship, and second in the 2018 GP3 Series.
But, the rest of his single-seater campaigns were fairly poor – and he is currently the only driver on the F1 grid who has never won a Championship in his entire racing career, even in go-karts.
So, it’s difficult to argue that Mazepin does deserve his place in Formula 1, but with 21 races of this season to go and Haas unlikely to fire him at the end of 2021 regardless of how badly he performs, he certainly has plenty of time to prove me wrong.