With a sixteenth place in the race, Mick Schumacher did not exactly have a dream debut in Formula 1, but driving...
Rarely has a driver entered Formula 1 with so much negative publicity. Nikita Mazepin will form part of an all-rookie team at Haas F1 team, alongside Mick Schumacher this season. His actions on and off the track did not contribute to a good reputation in 2020. As a driver, however, the Russian should not be underestimated and, like a rich man's son Lance Stroll, he can sometimes surprise positively.
Money can go a long way
Dmitry Mazepin owns the chemical company Uralchem and has made billions in that capacity. Nikita will make his debut for Haas in 2021, but a few years ago the Mazepin family were already in the race to buy Force India. There, the Stroll family ultimately won the prize. Drivers who buy into Formula 1 is traditionally part of the sport, but a driver usually does not make himself popular with it at first.
On the track, especially his defensive actions during the Formula 2 races in Bahrain came to a lot of criticism. The biggest wave of criticism came a few weeks later when Mazepin posted a video to Instagram in which he touched a young woman inappropriately.
Mazepin does have talent
In his early years in the junior classes, Mazepin seemed like the archetype of a driver who is allowed to drive his laps thanks to a rich father but shows little special. In Formula Renault and Formula 3, he did not go further than one podium place in 2015 and 2016. It was only in his second season of F3 in 2017 that he showed with multiple podium places.
It brought him a seat at ART Grand Prix in the GP3 Championship for 2018. This turned out to be a crucial move for Mazepin. ART was dominant and teammate Anthoine Hubert won the championship, but Mazepin was neatly second with four wins, most of all. He kept his other teammates, Callum Ilott and Jake Hughes, behind him.
However, the switch to ART's F2 team in 2019 did not work out well and so he went back to his former team Hitech Grand Prix for 2020. With them, he finished third in the Asian F3 Championship in the winter and finished fifth in Formula 2 with two wins, convincingly beating F2 veteran Luca Ghiotto as a teammate.
Mazepin the ultimate underdog in 2021
Based on talent, is Mazepin right to replace Romain Grosjean or Kevin Magnussen? Probably not. Partly because of all the controversy surrounding him, expectations for his performance in F1 are extremely low. So he can only surprise positively. Given his speed, he is also a danger to Mick Schumacher, his new teammate.
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