Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says Nikita Mazepin represents a perfect solution of financial backing and good results after signing the Russian to race in 2021.
Mazepin is currently third in the Formula 2 championship standings with two wins to his name, and mathematically still has an outside chance of the title heading into the final round. Although he has not won a championship in his junior career, he finished second in GP3 in 2018, and Steiner said recent results coupled with substantial financial backing from Russian companies Uralchem and Uralkali makes him an ideal rookie candidate.
“If they are quick, it’s good!” Steiner said. “There is always these pay drivers, a lot of drivers come into F1 with financial backing. There are very good drivers in F1 who in the beginning brought a sponsor. The first one to call is Checo (Perez). They said ‘he’s a pay driver’ when he came to F1. Look at him now, he’s on the podium and doing a good job.
“George Russell for me is one of the best drivers – without the help of Mercedes, he would not be anywhere. There’s a lot of them there. Lance Stroll, he was on the podium. If they are good and they have a sponsor, that’s a perfect solution. When I spoke with Niki (Lauda) a long time ago, he said ‘I made it into F1 thanks to a bank that sponsored me, so I could go and buy a drive’ – I think it was with BRM at the time – and he was twice world champion!
“It’s all how do you want to see it. If somebody is good, and he has a financial backer, for sure he has a better chance than someone who is at the same level and has no financial backing. Why would you choose the one with no financial backing? So long as they’re good in F1… Nikita is driving third at the moment, so I cannot doubt him. What else do you need to do?”
Mazepin’s father Dmitry is the owner of Uralchem and worth a reputed $7 billion, but Steiner said the driver’s own results in F2 this year are being overlooked in relation to his signing.
“I think from a driving point of view, he is third in the championship in F2 at the moment. I followed him the whole season and he had a difficult start, but without that difficult start he would be fighting for the championship. That is what I see, and I can’t see any more than that, you know? Results always talk.”
However, Steiner also admits that the commercial aspect has become more important to Haas now the team name and brand has been established in F1.
“At some stage, as I said already a while ago, if you have a business, you invest for a while, and you try and make it sustainable,” he said. “And that is part of it. We have established Haas as a name in F1, it’s a well-known team… at least from my side, because I go in every day. But you guys know what it is. We don’t need to push that out any more. And we’re looking for commercial partners. If it comes together, Dmitry Mazepin he’s got a company. If he comes along as a sponsor, why not?”