Nikita Mazepin is in danger of losing his seat with the Haas Formula One team for the 2021 season.
Following a video posted to Instagram that has since been deleted, concerns have been raised over Mazepin’s reputation for the brand and the team’s sponsors after he filmed himself groping a young woman’s breast in the back seat of Porsche.
Model Andrea D’Ival has since downplayed the incident as a ‘joke’.
The video caused outrage among F1 fans and the #WeSayNoToMazepin hashtag grew quickly in a move to try and ban the Russian from entering the grid next year, but it could prove difficult given his father’s influence and investment.
Ms D’Ival appeared to push Mazepin away from her in the footage as he grabbed her chest, raising her middle finger at the camera. He captioned the video: ‘She’s the best.’
However, writing on her Instagram Stories, she said: ‘Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know that Nikita and I have been friends for a long time and nothing in the video was meant seriously.
‘We trust each other and it’s just been fun between the two of us. I posted the video as a joke in his story. I’m really sorry.’
After Haas announced they would deal with the matter internally, Mazepin was quick to issue an apology for the video.
‘I would like to apologise for my recent actions, both in terms of my own inappropriate behaviour, and the fact that it was posted on to social media,’ he wrote.
‘I am sorry for the offence I have rightly caused and to the embarrassment I have brought to Haas F1 Team.
‘I have to hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula One driver and I acknowledge I have let myself and many people down. I promise I will learn from this.’
The controversy has left the team’s brand and sponsors concerned about their reputation by associating themselves with the 21-year-old, who is set to race alongside Mick Schumacher next season.
Despite Haas deciding the stick by their driver, Mazepin has now removed ‘F1 driver’ from his bio on social media and replaced with ‘Racing Driver’, adding fuel to the rumours that he may have lost his seat.
Meanwhile, Piettro Fittipaldi could be set to replace him in the team as he had added the Haas’ credentials to his online profiles.
The Brazilian stepped in at the end of the 2020 season following Romain Grosjean’s horror crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix for the final two races of the season.
Mazepin is the son of billionaire businessman Dmitry Mazepin, who is set to invest heavily in the team following his son’s induction into the paddock.
However, the 21-year-old has been at the centre of trouble before, after he punched British driver Callum Ilott in the paddock four years ago.
The Russian, then a Force India F1 development team star, was banned from the first race of the Hungaroring Formula 3 European Championship after the steward found him guilty of ‘unsporting behaviour in the paddock after the finish of free practice two.’
Mazepin believed Ilott had cut him up in the pits and blocked him from getting a new set of tyres so he got out of his car and struck Ilott.
Ilott was said to have suffered cuts to his face, a swollen jaw and a black eye.