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U.S.-Owned Haas Terminate Russian Racer Mazepin’s Contract

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Russian Nikita Mazepin will not race in Formula One this season after his U.S.-owned Haas squad on Saturday severed ties with the 23-year-old and title sponsor Uralkali over his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The outfit did not immediately announce a replacement to race alongside German Mick Schumacher, but team boss Guenther Steiner said last week Brazilian reserve Pietro Fittipaldi would get the “first call.”

Fittipaldi stood in for Romain Grosjean at the 2020 Sakhir and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix after the Frenchman’s fiery crash.

“Haas F1 team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin,” the team said in a statement.

“As with the rest of the Formula One community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”

Mazepin, in a statement posted on social media, called the decision to terminate his contract a “unilateral step” and said “no process was followed” in reaching it.

The only Russian on the grid, he would have been allowed to race in a neutral capacity, according to a decision by the FIA, as long as he also signed a commitment that included not expressing any support, direct or indirect, for Russia or Belarus’ “activities” in Ukraine.

“While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored,” he wrote.

“I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times.”

Haas had already removed all branding related to Russian potash producer Uralkali from their car for the final day of last week’s Barcelona testing in the wake of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Uralkali is owned by Mazepin’s Oligarch father, Dmitry, with the 23-year-old’s place at the team guaranteed by the sponsorship deal.

Haas finished at the bottom of the constructors’ standings last year and were the only team not to score a point after choosing to forgo development of their car to focus on their 2022 challenger designed to this year’s drastically overhauled rules.

But Mazepin’s performances were also underwhelming, with the Russian outperformed by fellow rookie and team mate Schumacher.

His ousting from Haas could mark the end of his career.

Formula One on Thursday said it will no longer race in Russia after terminating its Russian Grand Prix contract, originally set to expire in 2025.

The sport had already called off its 2022 race in the country.

Formula One will hold its final pre-season test in Bahrain from March 10 to 12. The season gets underway in the island kingdom on March 20.

Reuters

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