Money goes a long way
Dmitry Mazepin owns the chemical company Uralchem and has made billions in that field. The millions needed for his son Nikita to drive Formula 1. Nikita made his debut for Haas in 2021, but a few years ago the Mazepin family were in the race to buy Force India. The Stroll family won the race.
Buying drivers in Formula 1 is traditionally a part of the sport, but a driver usually does not make himself popular initially. The fact that the young Mazepin misbehaved on and off the track in 2020 didn’t help.
On the track, his defensive actions during the Formula 2 races in Bahrain drew a lot of criticism. Daniel Ricciardo, among others, was troubled by the fact that he would be up against such a dangerous opponent in 2021. The biggest wave of criticism came when Mazepin posted an inappropriate video on Instagram.
Mazepin has talent
In his early years in the junior classes, Mazepin seemed like the archetype of a driver who gets to do his laps thanks to a rich father, but doesn't show much of anything. In Formula Renault and Formula 3, he didn't get further than one podium finish in 2015 and 2016. It wasn't until his second season of F3 in 2017 that he showed with multiple podium finishes.
It brought him a seat with ART Grand Prix in the GP3 championship for 2018. This proved to be a crucial move for Mazepin. ART was dominant and teammate Anthoine Hubert won the championship, but Mazepin finished second with four wins, the most of anyone. He kept his other teammates, Callum Ilott and Jake Hughes, behind him.
However, the switch to ART's F2 team didn't work out in 2019, so he returned to his former team Hitech Grand Prix for 2020. With them, he finished third in the Asian F3 Championship over the winter and was fifth in Formula 2 with two wins, convincingly beating F2 veteran Luca Ghiotto as a teammate.
Mazepin the ultimate underdog in 2021
Partly due to all the controversy surrounding Mazepin, expectations of his performance in Formula 1 were extremely low. So he could only positively surprise. The Russian was able to use this to his advantage in his debut season with Haas F1. He debuted alongside Mick Schumacher, who is under immense pressure both from his surname and his performance.
Mazepin was overshadowed by Schumacher, which was to be expected. In addition, there was not much to shout about with the Haas car, which was not developed in 2021. For these reasons, the Russian rookie could not be blamed too much for not getting far in his debut season. Still, he cannot be blamed for finishing 21st in the championship behind Robert Kubica, who replaced Kimi Raikkonen for two races when the Finn tested positive with Covid-19.
Nikita Mazepin in 2022
For the 2022 Formula 1 season, almost the same applies as in 2021. Expectations for Mazepin are not high and that may work in the Russian's favour. He can develop somewhat under the radar while all eyes are on his teammate. He has already shown to make fewer mistakes towards the end of 2021 than at the start and, with the right motivation, he may be able to continue that trend.