Formula 1’s most hated driver hasn’t even raced yet

Nikita Mazepin, Haas, Formula 1 (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Nikita Mazepin, Haas, Formula 1 (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) /

Formula 1’s most hated driver hasn’t even completed a single lap at the sport’s top level of competition, but that is set to change this weekend.

Haas became the seventh of 10 teams in Formula 1 to solidify their driver lineup for the 2021 season, confirming that Formula 2 champion Mick Schumacher, the son of legendary seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, is set to join the team next year.

Fans had hoped their second driver would remain TBD, but unfortunately that didn’t end up being the case.

The sport’s lone American team also signed Formula 2 driver Nikita Mazepin, the son of Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, to drive alongside Schumacher this year.

Before even completing a lap, Mazepin has become the most hated driver in Formula 1.

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And it’s not just his latest and most significant episode of acting every bit the part of the spoiled, bratty rich kid he is deemed to be by many.

Fans give Lance Stroll grief all the time for the fact that his dad basically bought him a Formula 1 seat with Williams and then bought Force India so that he would continue to have a seat. But the whole Mazepin deal has shown that this is more or less a joke than anybody having any sort of a serious issue with Stroll. Not only does Stroll have proven talent, he also has maturity, and he is doing exactly what many of us would be doing if in his situation.

Sure, Mazepin’s most recent gargantuan screw-up was probably his most noteworthy display of a lack of professionalism, when a video of him reaching down a woman’s shirt and grabbing her breasts as she tried to resist and flipped off the camera was posted to his Instagram story.

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Dmitry/money/threat-related theories aside regarding why she came to his defense after the video went viral and said it was all for fun (even though he apologized and she later posted more interesting messages that told a different story regarding her defense), posting the act publicly for all to see, from a professional standpoint, is far more about the objectification involved and the sheer stupidity one must have to (a) record it and (b) post it than it is about personal preference.

Mazepin stated the following on Twitter after the incident, although he later deleted the apology and only addressed the matter again several months later.

"“I would like to apologise for my recent actions both in terms of my own inappropriate behaviour and the fact that it was posted on social media. I am sorry for the offense 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.”"

The woman in the video, Andrea D’lVal, stated the following.

"“Hey everyone, I just want to let you know that Nikita and I have been good friends for a long time and there was nothing serious about the video. 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 really a good person and he would never do anything to hurt or humiliate me.”"

In essence, her saying “it’s no big deal” (again, payoff theories aside) doesn’t make it okay to publicize, due to what the act was in itself. And again, take a look at what she posted a few days later, which almost completely contradicts what she said above.

The 22-year-old Russian’s apology about needing to hold himself to a higher driver as a Formula 1 driver also got fans riled up, and rightfully so. He’s not wrong, but how about holding yourself to any standards as a human being? He stated something similar earlier this month as well, indicating a lack of any serious change.

But again, it didn’t just start here for Mazepin.

I don’t like using the past transgressions of anybody against them when it comes to something trivial years down the road.

But this is a far cry from trivial. Mazepin’s past is hard to ignore when he simply continues to add to his lengthy profile of acting like a total fool with absolutely no significant consequences because of who his father is.

Okay, so Haas “dealt with it internally”.

"“Haas F1 Team does not condone the behavior of Nikita Mazepin in the video recently posted on his social media. Additionally, the very fact that the video was posted on social media is also abhorrent to Haas F1 Team. The matter is being dealt with internally and no further comment shall be made at this time.”"

Formula 1 and the FIA supported their stance.

"“We strongly support the Haas F1 Team in its response to the recent inappropriate actions of its driver, Nikita Mazepin. Mazepin has issued a public apology for his poor conduct and this matter will continue to be dealt with internally by the Haas F1 Team. The ethical principles and diverse and inclusive culture of our sport are of the utmost importance to the FIA and Formula 1.”"

But we saw what happened.

Mazepin’s misconduct with women didn’t start here. It was recently revealed that he had also messaged a female fan to send nudes in exchange for paddock passes, complaining to her when she didn’t give him what he wanted.

That same fan responded when the abhorrent video came to light.

Mazepin has been in hot water on social media before for other things as well, recently for posting “1 year since the guy in Wuhan ate a [bat emoji] – Happy birthday covid [kiss emoji]”.

There’s also the issue of his interaction with other drivers, both online and on the track.

During a social media live chat by Williams driver George Russell, Mazepin commented, “I have a secret about you mate that people might call a coming out”.

He has also endorsed racist comments directed at Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda, who is on his way to Formula 1 next year with AlphaTauri as well, on social media — and on multiple occasions.

And these aren’t your so-called “racist” comments you see from keyboard warriors simply for disagreeing on a political candidate, either.

He replied with nothing but three laughing emojis to a comment suggesting that Tsunoda should be in Kabuki theatre as opposed to racing after Tsunoda inherited a win from him at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps as a result of a penalty for forcing his rival wide on the final lap. The comment included a Japanese flag and a clown emoji.

After the race itself, Mazepin drove into the P2 board in parc ferme, sending it flying and nearly hitting Tsunoda with it.

When a Japanese fan commented on one of Mazepin’s posts telling him that he had received a racist message from one of his fans, Mazepin replied, “this is a real world”, and proudly added a Russian flag to the end of his comment.

Yes, the Russian flag, not the new Haas VF-21. Or maybe they’re one in the same?

And that’s not all.

Suffice it to say, his need for growth goes back several years, and it’s the same as it ever was many years later.

In 2016, he punched Callum Ilott, the talented driver whom many believe should really be in the Haas alongside Schumacher this year, over a practice incident for the Formula 3 European Championship season opener.

And it wasn’t just a punch; he left the British driver with a black eye, a cut cheek, a cut neck and a swollen jaw. He only got a one-race ban for the 30-race season.

As far as his on-track “activity” is concerned, he sent both himself and fellow driver Nobuharu Matsushita to the hospital after a crash at Sochi Autodrom last year and was given a 15-place grid penalty and four penalty points for being the sole cause of the disastrous collision.

Another incident with Tsunoda at Bahrain International Circuit took place last season, when Mazepin drove him off the track and into the pit exit. He also hindered Felipe Drugovich on the pit straight in that race. Both incidents led to five-second penalties, which dropped him from third to ninth place and ultimately cost him a fourth place finish in the driver standings.

He ended last season with 11 points on his license, which was just one shy of the 12 needed to trigger an automatic ban. But the 2020 season is over, and a move to Formula 1 effectively washes away those 11 points from his record.

Again, no real consequences.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has admitted that the team have their work cut out for them with their new driver.

Suffice it to say that that’s an understatement.

But even those comments were made before the groping video emerged. Will they fulfill that work, something they have recently indicated they still plan to do, or will Mazepin’s stint with the team resemble Antonio Brown’s stint with the New England Patriots?

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Regardless, the sport’s most hated driver is currently a 22-year-old who has not yet been on the grid, and even with the three and a half-month offseason set to come to an end this weekend, that hasn’t changed and likely won’t in the near future unless he does something to change it.