Haas believes its new Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin is learning a lesson from the ongoing criticism he is receiving for his actions on social media late last year.
Mazepin posted a video of himself groping a female in the back of a car ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, shortly after having been confirmed as a Haas driver for 2021. Although he was initially defended by the woman in the video, subsequent posts suggested she was not comfortable with the situation and Mazepin and Haas both continue to get regularly condemned online.
Haas said it dealt with the matter internally over the winter, and after Mazepin recently visited the factory for a seat fitting (pictured above), team principal Guenther Steiner says the enduring criticism does not go unnoticed by either the team or driver.
“Having Nikita at the factory was good for us all as it means we’re getting closer to the start of the season, frankly,” Steiner told RACER. “We continue to have dialogue with Nikita about many things, including what happened at the end of last season. He took immediate responsibility for his actions — he apologized; he’s learned from this experience, he’s undoubtedly been chastened by it, and he’ll apply that moving forward in his Formula 1 career.
“The response on social media towards him is still strong, we’re naturally aware of that via our team posts. While respecting that people are entitled to voice their opinions, no matter how vigorous, as a team we feel we have provided Nikita with the best environment to learn from this, and now with Bahrain fast approaching, the opportunity to concentrate on the season ahead.”
It’s a view shared by team owner Gene Haas, who told RACER that he hopes the reaction from both the team and those online will ensure it’s an incident that is not repeated.
“Our response to it was I think Guenther told him that he was an idiot and you can’t do things like that and it was totally unacceptable,” Haas said. “I think he got a lot of criticism from all sides that just piled on him — he’s 21 years old, for a young man the deluge of criticism must have been difficult to take, so I’m hoping it’s a good lesson learned.
“We’ll just have to see how that goes. The social media response from all kind of groups was extremely strong, wanting us to execute him for what he did, but that didn’t feel like the right course either.”