Haas has terminated the contract of Nikita Mazepin and his father’s company Uralkali, as pressure grows on Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
On 24 February Russian forces ordered by President Vladimir Putin began an invasion on neighbouring Ukraine which has so far spanned a week and resulted in the deaths of 752 civilians, according to the Washington Post. Sanctions have been placed on Russia and its ally Belarus by the FIA and western governments following the invasion.
When the war broke out on the final day of testing in Barcelona, Haas moved to remove the Uralkali branding and Mazepin’s future remained unclear given his family ties to Putin.
But on Saturday morning, Haas announced it had parted ways with both Russian chemical giant Uralkali and Mazepin. Mazepin’s personal links to President Putin, the exclusion of Russia from Swift is likely to be factors. His replacement will be announced ahead of the second test in Bahrain next weekend.
A short statement from the team read: “Haas F1 team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin. As with the rest of the Formula 1 community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”
In response, Mazepin said, “I am very disappointed to hear my contract has been terminated. While I understand the difficulties the ruling by the FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored.”
“no process was followed in this unilateral step, to those who have tried to understand my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times.”
Mazepin’s departure from Haas was expected ever since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Dmitry Mazepin was one of several leading Russian businessmen invited to a meeting with Putin at the Kremlin hours after the invasion began.
Among the drivers said to be under consideration are the team’s reserve Pietro Fittipaldi, who stood in for Romain Grosjean for two races at the end of 2020 after the Frenchman’s fiery accident in Bahrain, Indian Formula 2 driver Jehan Daruvala, and Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri, the reigning F2 champion.
Although the team have not announced who will replace Mazepin, team principal Gunther Steiner said “If Nikita couldn’t drive for one or another reason, the first call would go to Pietro. Obviously, he [has been] with us for a few years, and then we would see what we do next.
“But I mean Pietro is always around with us for a reason. The last years, we needed a reserve driver, having COVID around, so he is always around. He knows the team, he knows the car to jump in for one day to the other. There is nobody better than Pietro around at the moment.”