Haas driver Nikita Mazepin admits 'huge mistake' as team launch 2021 Formula 1 car

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Haas' new 2021 car
Haas will give Mick Schumacher - son of Michael - his debut F1 drive

Russian driver Nikita Mazepin admits he made a "huge mistake" in an incident in which he was filmed inappropriately touching a woman.

The 22-year-old Haas driver said he was "not proud" of his behaviour and understood why it was wrong.

"We as human beings have to show a certain behaviour towards each other and I am confident I will be one of those humans from now on," he said.

"I made a huge mistake but I have taken responsibility and learned from it."

Mazepin had previously issued a public apology, saying he had "let myself and many people down".

However, he would not say whether he had apologised to the woman in the video for his actions.

The incident happened in a car towards the end of last year and took place shortly after he was confirmed as a Haas F1 driver for 2021. A video of his actions was posted to his Instagram account and later deleted.

Haas say they have handled Mazepin's behaviour internally.

Mazepin said: "They have been very patient helping me learn this matter further and I think on the whole behaviour in the incident I am way further than I have ever been."

He added: "Graduating to F1 and being an F1 driver means all of a sudden you become a sort of example to a lot of young kids who are aiming to get to the same championship.

"So with that you have to be a certain way. I haven't done it instantly. I was too late to realise that unfortunately.

"And in regards to what I've learned, it is quite clear the behaviour you are meant to bring with yourself and how you are meant to act on social media and off social media."

On Thursday Haas unveiled their car's new livery. It features the colours of the Russian flag in deference to the team's new main sponsor, a fertiliser company owned by Mazepin's billionaire father Dmitry.

Asked how he felt about being seen as a driver who was in F1 only because of his father's money, Mazepin said: "I am not the only driver who has had it to deal with.

"But it doesn't really bother me because I am proud of my family and proud of my father and I am not thinking of it in a negative way. Also I am looking at it as a challenge to prove myself in F1 and I am going to do it."

Mazepin said he was still in discussions as to how he would be classified when he races in F1 this year, following the ban on all athletes from competing as Russians as a result of sanctions imposed on the country by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Schumacher in the other car

Mazepin's team-mate is Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael and a member of the Ferrari driver academy.

The 21-year-old is another rookie, who won the Formula 2 championship last year, and said he was "very excited" to start his career in F1.

He dismissed claims that having two novice drivers was a handicap for the team, saying: "The team took that decision so I am sure there is a good reason for it.

"I see myself and how hungry I am for the season and I want to do well, and I am pretty sure Nikita is the same. We have every right to feel positively of this year."

Schumacher said he was honoured to bring such an illustrious name back to F1.

"I have never said it was pressure and I am pretty sure I never will because I am very happy to carry that name and to bring it back to F1 and I am proud of it," he said.

"It is a motivation and it gives me a boost every single day to work as hard as I can."

Haas have done only limited updates on their car over the winter, having chosen not to use the two 'tokens' each team is permitted to use on mechanical development under restrictions imposed on cost-saving grounds.

Team principal Gunther Steiner described 2021 as "a transitional season".

He said the team had "put a lot of effort in to get the best out of the short [aerodynamic] development they had" but that it was "pointless" to invest in improving an already uncompetitive car and better to direct their resources towards designing their car for 2022, when major regulation changes are being introduced.

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