Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes giving Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher strict rules won’t help them in the long run despite the ongoing rift between the two.
Mazepin was unhappy about Schumacher being allowed to overtake him during the out-laps of their final qualifying runs at the Dutch Grand Prix, and accused his teammate of intentionally trying to ruin his lap. The next day, Mazepin was ahead on the opening lap of the race and moved across on Schumacher on the pit straight, forcing the German to lift to avoid major contact but still damaging his front wing.
Having spoken to both drivers at Zandvoort and again on Thursday in Monza, Steiner says he needs them to learn how to race each other cleanly rather than enforcing team orders.
“I could put it down and say, ‘This is what we’re doing’ but I don’t want to do that intentionally, whether you believe it or not, because then they don’t learn how to race,” Steiner said. “If I say, ‘Whoever is qualifying in front stays in front’ and things like this, it’s not beneficial for the team, because then we don’t prepare them for next year when we will be in a different position.
“There is a very easy solution to just tell then what to do and they have to obey it… but that is not productive in my opinion. I want to get to a point where they both understand also for their future and for their career how to do racing clean but also hard.
“You can race hard but also clean, and that’s what I try to do. It’s not that I failed telling them what to do, otherwise I just say, ‘You don’t do that’ and that’s it. Whoever is in Turn 1 first stays first, and that’s not good for anybody. Except for my budget, maybe.”
Mazepin claims Haas has backed him after Sunday’s incident, saying, “It’s good to know that I am not in the bad books” and adding that Schumacher needs to react better to avoid contact. While Steiner didn’t disclose the content of any of the team discussions, he believes the drivers can find a way of working together after numerous run-ins this year.
“I think it’s a working relationship that was always very open, even if they’re not friends. I don’t really care what they do in their private life, if they’re friends or not, but on the racetrack they need to perform for the team. If you take them both not together, they agree with that — we just have to find an agreement now when they are both in the room. That’s what we are working on.
“There are a lot of teammates who are not good friends, we just need to make it work. I don’t think it’s personal, I think it’s circumstances. As I continue to say, we are fighting with nobody else, therefore this is exaggerated, this fight, because there is nobody else to fight.
“If you were in the mix with another three or four cars then you wouldn’t see this, because if you do these moves to not your teammate or you race hard with not your teammate then it doesn’t make a difference, but if it’s with your teammate then it’s almost personal. That seems to be in my opinion one of the issues there, that there is nobody else around us that we can fight.”