Formula 1: Is the writing on the wall for Haas?

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Formula 1 (Photo by RUDY CAREZZEVOLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Romain Grosjean, Haas, Formula 1 (Photo by RUDY CAREZZEVOLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Is the writing on the wall for the Gene Haas-owned Formula 1 team with Dmitry Mazepin now heavily involved in the organization?

Haas, set to enter their sixth season in Formula 1 in 2021, are poised for what could be their worst season ever in the sport throughout the upcoming record-breaking 23-race campaign, and it can’t get much worse than last year.

They finished in eighth place in the constructor standings in their first two seasons in 2016 and 2017 with 29 points and 47 points, respectively. In 2018, they finished in fifth with 93 points and easily could have been higher if not for missed opportunities early in the season.

In 2019, they regressed and finished in ninth place with 28 points, and then in 2020 they finished in ninth again with only three points on two top 10 finishes.

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This season, desperate for funding, they overhauled their driver lineup, bringing in reigning Formula 2 champion Mick Schumacher and hiring Nikita Mazepin, whose billionaire father Dmitry serves as the majority shareholder and chair of Russian chemical company Uralkali.

Mazepin’s investment in the team is effectively helping them stay afloat — and also why they couldn’t fire Nikita after what they referred to as an “abhorrent” video was posted to his Instagram story back in December just days after he was confirmed by the team for the 2021 season.

But are there other signs that point to Mazepin eventually buying the team from Gene Haas?

If there were, those were further highlighted when they launched their 2021 challenger, the VF-21, and if it happens, we won’t be able to say that the writing wasn’t on the wall.

The team confirmed that they will not be doing any developing the car whatsoever throughout the 2021 season as they prepare for the new rules and regulations to be introduced ahead of the 2022 campaign.

So for 2021, they’ve effectively already thrown in the towel, and based on where they were last year as well as the developments made by the two other backmarker teams with which they were regularly competing, it would surprise nobody if they end the season with the same number of points with which they will start it.

On the surface, it makes sense why, in their position, they would do this. But a sale of the team in this position would also make a ton of sense, even though those rumors were dismissed when they emerged last year.

Let’s also not forget that Dmitry tried to buy Force India in 2018. He clearly has interest in becoming a team owner, and now with his son in Formula 1 and Uralkali as Haas’s title sponsor, he is in a position to make it happen in the very near future.

There’s also the issue of the team’s 2021 livery.

Read. F1 fans slam Haas over new livery. light

We already touched on Haas needing the money, hence the arrival of the Mazepin family and the introduction of Uralkali as their first title sponsor since Rich Energy in 2019.

Uralkali is on the car, but the car is basically branded as a Russian flag. Of course, the team are now heavily funded by Mazepin, so him having an influence on the car’s livery only makes sense.

But the colors of the Russian flag are not anything close to the colors of Uralkali, so that design has nothing to do with the sponsorship element of the deal — absolutely nothing.

This change alone could cause bigger issues based on the current Russian ban for international sports due to their state-sponsored doping scandal, especially since the FIA are a Signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code. Nikita isn’t even allowed to compete under the Russian flag, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are already looking into the livery.

I seriously doubt Haas was calling the shots on that one — or that he wants anything to do with whatever trouble may come out of it down the road.

We already saw how the Rich Energy saga played out, and it wasn’t pretty, especially since the team had called out those who doubted the legitimacy of the deal from the get-go. To put it nicely, that backfired.

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Will Gene Haas still be a Formula 1 team owner in a year or two? Will Dmitry Mazepin buy the Haas team after the 2021 season? Things don’t look bright, but we have seen team principal Guenther Steiner put a cap on those rumors before. That was, however, well before the arrival of the Russian duo.