Uralkali has demanded a refund from Haas as a result of its title sponsorship of the team being terminated, with Nikita Mazepin planning to use the funds to set up a foundation under the banner “We Compete As One.”
Haas ended both the title partnership and Mazepin’s driver contract in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, but has yet to announce a replacement. Speaking publicly for the first time since that news, Mazepin says he was not given any indication from the team and feels it unfairly dropped him, with Uralkali calling for its money back having paid “most of the sponsorship funding” for 2022 already.
“The reason I am speaking is to close my chapter with clarity and begin the next one with hope,” Mazepin said. “I was informed last week in a letter from Haas’ lawyer of the immediate termination of my contract as a team driver. Prior to that the FIA, specifically the WMSC, ruled that I and other Russian drivers could compete under a neutral status. A similar provision has been enacted regarding for Daniil Medvedev in ATP (pro tennis), and he has been allowed to continue under a neutral status.
“I have consented through this ruling unconditionally when it was prepared by the WMSC, so the decision from Haas was not based either on any directive from the sport governing body or dictated by any sanctions that were placed against either me, or my father or his company, and of course I do not feel this is fair.
“In regards to the support from the team, I do feel like I should have had more. There has been no legal reason that could enable the team to terminate my contract, on legal terms. I have explained that I have been very relieved to see that the FIA has allowed athletes to compete on a neutral status, and I was hoping — and to be honest the hope was feeling close — that I would be able to compete, but obviously 5th March at 11:45am Moscow time things really changed and I lost my dream that I was working towards for 18 years of my life.”
Mazepin says Uralkali’s F1 sponsorship money will be used to support athletes who he believes are being impacted simply as a result of their nationality, utilizing F1’s “We Race As One” campaign that targets greater diversity and inclusion in the sport as the inspiration for its title.
“The foundation will allocate resources both financial and non-financial resources to those athletes who have spent their lives preparing only to find they were forbidden from competing and collectively punished just because of the passport they held. We will work to find jobs, as many athletes have been counting on sponsorships following their performances that did not happen.
“We will also provide legal aid. We will help them psychologically to cope with the sense of loss and emptiness that comes from being excluded. We all know the career of an athletes is short and it requires years of sacrifice to compete. When that reward is taken away it is devastating, and no one is thinking what happens next. I will be addressing this.
“Athletes unable to train due to upheaval will also be included in this. This will include athletes from all conflict zones and our door is open to everybody. We will beginning with the paralympic team in Russia which was banned from Beijing, having first been told they could travel. The name of the foundation will be ‘We Compete As One.’
“The goal of this foundation is to allow athletes to have the support they might not be getting from the sport itself. The reason it is called ‘We Compete As One’ is it is deliberately aiming to compete on a sporting ground, as long as you’re neutral, and gives everyone the opportunity to have access to the sport without any choices on nationality or passports or any other reasons which are not sporting.”
Mazepin also says he received no support or hint from Haas that he was set to lose his drive until it informed him a few minutes before making the announcement, although RACER understands there was no attempt from the Mazepin side or Uralkali to make contact with the team last week either.