Haas chief Guenther Steiner shed some light on the decision to dismiss pilot Nikita Mazepin only two weeks before the start of the new season.
The team had planned to race with Mazepin and Mick Schumacher for a second consecutive season, but that all changed when Russia invaded Ukraine. Suddenly there was enormous pressure on Haas to act on both the driver and the sponsor Uralkali.
Dmitry Mazepin, who owns this company and paid for his son’s seat in the team, has close ties with Vladimir Putin. In addition to fan demands, team owner Gene Haas revealed there has also been pressure from other sponsors to take action.
Both agreements therefore ended and, a few days later, the European Union has named them individually as targets of their latest round of sanctions. The ban on competing in some countries and potential visa and travel issues also reportedly contributed to the problem of keeping Mazepin on as a driver.
That’s why, ultimately, action was taken that resulted in Kevin Magnussen arriving on just 10 days’ notice. Shedding light on the situation, Steiner admitted that Haas had no choice but to act.
“We couldn’t make any other decision when we got there, there was no possibility of keeping him behind the wheel,” he said in Bahrain. “The criticism, the sanction, absolutely, it no longer worked.”
Mazepin reacted angrily after being let go by the team. Just days after learning that his Formula 1 career was over after just one season, the Russian held a self-organized press conference in which he claimed that he was not told in advance that he was going to be released.
“Guenther hasn’t given me any information about the decision the team is going to make, other than the information he gave my manager until March 4,” he said. “And then the press release came, I read it and found out my contract was terminated. But I didn’t speak to him personally.”
Meanwhile, Mazepin’s replacement got off to a dream start in his last spell in F1. Magnussen reached the final qualifying round and will start Sunday’s race in seventh position, in front of Mercedes’ newcomer, George Russell. Schumacher also enjoyed better fortunes than last year, qualifying a respectable 12th place finish – his best Saturday finish in the sport to date.