Things haven’t been great for the Haas Formula One Team for the past few years, but 2022 is shaping up to be the worst one yet. Hold onto your hats, because we have one hell of an update coming, as it’s been a while since our last update.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, sporting bodies around the world began calling for a widespread protest of the conflict by disallowing Russian athletes from competition. Formerly, F1 had only asked that Russian and Belarusian athletes not compete under their national flag — but that was before the invasion took place. Rumors swirled for days about the status of Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and the team’s Russian sponsor, Uralkali.
On March 5, those rumors were finally confirmed. Haas would be parting ways with all Russian aspects of the team.
“Haas F1 team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin,” a statement from Haas read. “As with the rest of the Formula 1 community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”
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Uralkali, you might remember, has been involved in Russian mining operations that resulted in sinkholes large enough to devour a town.
Haas will be rebranding the cars to take on a Haas Automation livery.
Mazepin losing his seat didn’t come as a surprise to anyone but, apparently, Mazepin himself. Speaking to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, team owner Gene Haas said that Mazepin failed to understand how untenable the situation had become.
Mazepin also took to social media to lament his turn of fate.
“Dear fans and followers, I am very disappointed to hear that my F1 contract has been terminated,” he wrote. “While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored and no process was followed in unilateral step.
“To those who have tried to understand, my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times. I will have more to say in the coming days.”
I can’t say I would have been quite so surprised or maligned, but that’s just me.
As the team’s reserve driver, Pietro Fittipaldi — grandson of F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi — was rumored to be getting Mazepin’s vacated seat. Team owner Gene Haas confirmed on March 7 that Fittipaldi will be taking Mazepin’s car for the upcoming pre-season test in Bahrain, but he denied that Fittipaldi is guaranteed for the race seat.
“We’re in the process of looking at several candidates, we’ll see who is available and what we have to deal with, but we’ll have somebody by Wednesday,” Haas told the Associated Press.
Who’s in the running? Aside from Fittipaldi, Antonio Giovinazzi has been linked to the Haas seat. The driver lost his Alfa Romeo seat at the end of 2021 and has instead transitioned to the Dragon Racing team in Formula E. As part of the Ferrari junior academy, he’d be a neat fit for the Ferrari-engined Haas team.
No. At least, Gene Haas says his F1 team isn’t for sale. Some rumors have linked the team with Michael Andretti, who is currently looking into forming his own F1 team. People have suggested that Andretti may buy Haas. Right now, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
To make a bad off-season even worse, journalist Tobi Grüner reported on March 7 that Haas’ cars are currently stuck at the Doncaster Airport in England as the team prepares to make its way to Bahrain for another test session. It’s now unclear if the team will make it to Bahrain in time for the first day of testing.