Haas Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin insists that he did not post the video in which he inappropriately touched a woman’s chest.
Nikita Mazepin is set to make his Formula 1 debut with the Haas team later this month alongside fellow rookie Mick Schumacher, and the team launched their new VF-21 on Thursday, just over one week before preseason testing is scheduled to take place at Bahrain International Circuit from Friday, March 12 to Sunday, March 14.
The 22-year-old Russian is heavily funded by his billionaire father Dmitry, who serves as the majority shareholder and chair of Uralkali.
Haas confirmed Thursday that Uralkali have become their title sponsor as well, their first title sponsor since Rich Energy prematurely terminated their agreement with the team during the 2019 season.
Nikita, who has been at the center of controversy throughout much of his career, was pressed about an Instagram video posted on his story in December.
In the video, he is sitting in the passenger seat of a car when he reaches around and grabs a woman’s chest and starts touching her breasts as she tries to push him away before ultimately giving him the middle finger.
Many fans called for Mazepin to be barred from Formula 1, given the sport’s alleged interest in equality and human rights and the recent #WeRaceAsOne campaign, and this led to the creation of the #WeSayNoToMazepin hashtag. Many also brought up his checkered past, which includes several other inappropriate off-the-track incidents.
But he is going nowhere, and he has vowed to learn from the incident.
Mazepin had not spoken publicly about the matter, save for his deleted Twitter apology, until earlier this week when he said that he took full responsibility for what happened, and he echoed that sentiment again during the team’s car launch.
Here is what Mazepin had to say about the matter, according to Sky Sports.
“How I reflect on my actions is pretty clear, I’m not proud of it. I didn’t behave as I meant to behave, being in Formula 1 the transition phase of realizing what I have achieved has been very short and I didn’t adapt to it as quick as I should have. I’ve taken responsibility for it and I’m ready to keep doing so.
“As a racing driver you just focus on your job because it is very demanding when you’re on track and you try not to make mistakes out of the circuit. It happened, I made a huge mistake. I’ve taken responsibility for it, I’ve learned from it and I’m looking forward to a clean year ahead.
“I have taken the responsibility for it both on and off the circuit. We as human beings have to show a certain behavior towards each other to live in a calm, humanitarian world so I’m confident I will be one of those humans from now on.
“Graduating to Formula 1 and being a Formula 1 driver means that 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. With that, you have to bring a certain way of behavior towards yourself. I haven’t done it. I was too late to realize that, unfortunately.
“In regards to what I’ve learnt is quite clear, first of all with the behavior that you’re meant to bring with yourself. Second, how you are meant to act on social media and off social media.”
However, there will be some who justifiably question the sincerity of that statement, and not just because of the fact that he hasn’t seemed to learn from any of his past mistakes and always ends up getting away with little to no consequences.
Mazepin insisted that he did not actually post the video.
He did not share any more details regarding who did, and he did not share any details regarding whether or not he apologized to the woman whom he touched in it.
“It wasn’t my hands that put it there. … I think a privacy matter is very important in this case. I don’t think it would be correct to bring other people into this very wide media discussion. Therefore I’m not going to do that.”
That woman, Andrea D’IVal, claimed afterward that she posted it on his account as a joke and that it was not a big deal, but many have questioned whether or not she may have been pushed to say that by someone within the Mazepin camp due to the ramifications they knew it may have.
Future posts from D’IVal added to those concerns.
The 2021 season is scheduled to get underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, March 28. ESPN is set to broadcast the race live from Bahrain International Circuit beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.