Remember how I said two months ago that Formula 1 (F1) is no stranger to controversy? Well, here we are again.
The Haas team signed two 21-year-old rookie drivers for 2021; the Russian Nikita Mazepin and the German Mick Schumacher, son of legendary F1 driver Michael Schumacher.
On Dec. 9, just over a week after his signing, Mazepin posted a video to his Instagram story where he reached from the passenger seat of a car to the back seat and touched an intoxicated young woman’s breast. The woman, Russian model Andrea D’Ival, moved away from him, gave the camera a middle finger and covered up the lens before the video ended. The story was deleted shortly afterwards.
After Mazepin’s video was discovered, Haas issued a statement that same day saying that they “do not condone the behavior” and that the situation would be “dealt with internally and no further comment shall be made at this time.”
Mazepin tweeted a public apology the same day.
“I would like to apologise for my recent actions both in terms of my own inappropriate behaviour and the fact it was posted onto social media,” Mazepin said. “I am sorry for the offense (sic) I have rightly caused and to the embarrassment I have brought to Haas F1 team. I have to hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula 1 driver and I acknowledge I have let myself and many people down. I promise I will learn from this.”
He never apologized to D’Ival directly. To rub more salt in the wound, he deleted his apology on Dec. 18.
D’Ival posted to her Instagram story a day after Mazepin’s video surfaced, seemingly forgiving him for his actions.
“Hi guys, I just want to let you know Nikita and I have been good friends for a long time and nothing from that video was serious at all!” D’Ival wrote. “We trust each other so much and this was a silly way of joking between us. I posted this video on his story as an internal joke. I am truly sorry. I can give you my word he’s a really good person and he would never do anything to hurt me or humiliate me.”
Suspiciously, the two don’t follow each other on Instagram. Coincidence? I think not.
Mazepin’s misconduct doesn’t end there. In 2016, when he was driving in the Formula 3 junior series, he punched Calum Illot, a fellow driver, in the face for allegedly ruining a good lap. Mazepin left Illot with a black eye and a swollen jaw.
In late December, Haas broke their silence and reconfirmed Mazepin as a driver for the upcoming season.
To put it lightly, it’s a classless and awful decision. Sexual assault, especially caught on camera, should clearly warrant an outing from the sport or, at the bare minimum, a suspension or heavy fine.
Yet there’s a huge reason he’s staying: money. In F1, money gets you everything: better cars, sponsors, engines and research. Haas is a team strapped for cash; historically, they feature very few sponsors on their cars and outsource parts and chassis development. With the team slipping down the standings each season, a huge boost of cash would make them more competitive.
Mazepin’s father, Dmitry, is a multi-billionaire chairman of the Russian chemical company Uralchem. Put two and two together and you could see why Haas decided to keep Nikita. Without funding or marketing from the Mazepins, the team could go under.
A social media movement called “#WeSayNoToMazepin” took the F1 online community by storm, with posts popping up all over Reddit and Twitter with posts lamenting the Russian and Haas’ decision to keep the driver.
I just hope that his teammate Schumacher and every other driver on the grid crushes Mazepin on the track each and every session until he’s finally out of F1 for good.