Formula 1: Nikita Mazepin trending after disastrous first qualifying

Nikita Mazepin, Haas, Formula 1 (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)
Nikita Mazepin, Haas, Formula 1 (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images) /

Nikita Mazepin had a Formula 1 qualifying debut to forget at Bahrain International Circuit, but the folks on Twitter seemed to enjoy it.

Haas arrived at Bahrain International Circuit fielding a VF-21 that most fans anticipated would be the worst car on the grid, and that proved to be the case in the first qualifying session of the 2021 Formula 1 season.

They also entered the Bahrain Grand Prix with two of the three rookies in the field driving their cars, with one being Mick Schumacher, the admired son of legendary seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

The other, of course, is Nikita Mazepin, who has arguably become the sport’s most hated driver even before a single start due to his litany of inappropriate on-track and off-track behavior from recent months and years, something that was highlighted in great detail on multiple occasions over the offseason.

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And what most fans anticipated, they got on Saturday at the 15-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) road course in Sakhir, Bahrain.

It was a “battle” for 19th place in the 20-car field for the Russian — sorry, American — cars, and it wasn’t much of a battle at all.

Schumacher did exceptionally well to qualify 19th, effectively in first place out of two cars given just how far off the pace Haas are and will likely be throughout the entire 2021 season.

Quite frankly, he might as well have won the world championship, as it would have been hard to do much better.

Mazepin, on the other hand, lit up Twitter with a disastrous maiden qualifying session.

The 22-year-old pay driver spun out in turn 13 before even logging a clean lap, much like he had done in practice earlier in the day.

A few minutes later, he spun out in turn one, causing a yellow flag that ultimately changed the complexion of the session for several drivers, most notably Sebastian Vettel on his Aston Martin debut, who were actually competing to move on through qualifying. Vettel was relegated to 18th place — “worst of the rest”, if you will, when it comes to everybody but Haas.

Mazepin and “Mazespin”, a nickname even Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft repeated live on air during the session, immediately began trending on Twitter, and the critics who were loud and clear about their stance on Mazepin throughout the winter truly got their chance to sound off.

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And can you blame them? All winter long, we’ve been hearing how “let’s see what he can do in the car” and “let’s not hold his past against him”, etc.

Even the suspicious and concerning turn his most recent scandal took didn’t seem to faze those who never cared about his abhorrent behavior to begin with, whether that be punching Callum Ilott in the face, bribing a girl for nudes with paddock passes, or groping a woman and having it posted to his Instagram story.

It’s still early, obviously, and you never want to go out of your way to root for someone to fail — especially personally, where things can change. But you also want to be honest. And so far, “what he can do in the car” is find certain areas of the track that not many other drivers have found.

He ended up finishing 0.824 seconds behind Schumacher to qualify in 20th (last) place on the grid. To put that in perspective, Schumacher, driving the same equipment, ended up less than 0.824 seconds out of 16th, which would have placed him ahead of an Alpine, a Williams and an Aston Martin.

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How will Mazepin’s maiden Formula 1 start go tomorrow? Tune in to ESPN at 11:00 a.m. ET for the live broadcast of the Bahrain Grand Prix from Bahrain International Circuit.