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Nikita Mazepin moves to F1 – what’s behind the art of the deal?

Photo: Haas F1 Team, edited by Decalspotters

Haas F1 Team has confirmed this morning Russian F2 driver Nikita Mazepin will drive for the American team in a multi-year deal starting with the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. 

The announcement comes to no surprise as Nikita was rumoured for months as a primary candidate for the Haas seat, which at a time seemed his sponsors were set to buy the team out.

The Russian driver has flirted with a Formula 1 d├ębut since 2016, when he joined the Force India team as a test driver, alongside Alfonso Celis Jr., by the help of his backers.

In 2019, Mazepin surprised the paddock by becoming a young test driver for the reigning champions Mercedes, which stays true until the end of the F1 2020 season, when he’s scheduled for a post-season test in Abu Dhabi before jumping to Haas.

Despite this, Mazepin’s sudden revelance is not a surprise. While he brought good results in the feeder series, featuring multiple race wins in GP3 and Formula 2, the Russian has had a big help from his father’s businesses, who are his personal sponsors.

Dmitry Mazepin, Nikita’s father, is a businessman with an estimated net worth of 7.1 billion dollars, and owns both of his son’s principal sponsors – URALCHEM and URALKALI.

URALCHEM is a chemical product manufacturer, specialising in mineral fertilizers. According to the company, it is the largest producer of ammonium nitrate as well as the second largest producer of ammonia and nitrogen fertilizers in Russia.

URALKALI is another chemical product manufacturer, which specialises in the production and exportion of potash fertilizers. The company dates back to the Soviet Union, which is explained by Dmitriy Mazepin being an influential shareholder.

Photo: Hitech GP

URALKALI and URALCHEM followed Mazepin’s steps as he moved from ART Grand Prix to Hitech GP for F1 2020, the Russian brand have been present in all of the feeder series the British squad competed in during the year.

Decalspotters understand that both of Mazepin’s sponsors will join Haas F1 Year on multi-year deals, replacing the departing MindMaze and Jack & Jones, which are their current drivers’ sponsors.

Haas have been very vocal on relying on sponsorship to survive in the championship, and signing Mazepin is a perfect solution to the troubled times at the American squad. Both companies are set to spend multi-million dollars to support the team and their driver.

Nikita’s move to F1 doesn’t come without controversy, however. Even if the common negative feedback for pay-drivers is soever persistent in the motorsport community, the Russian is plagued by social misconducts which range from assaulting a fellow driver to sexually harassing a fan online.

In 2016, after a European F3 race at the Hungaroring, Nikita Mazepin and Callum Ilott, one of the contenders for the F2 2020 title, were involved in a punch-up which resulted in the Briton getting a black-eye and Mazepin getting a race ban.

This year, Nikita Mazepin was handed a suspended five-place grid drop for “potentially dangerous and unsportsmanlike conduct” after the F2 2020 Belgian sprint race, where he almost ran over race winner Yuki Tsunoda in parc ferme.

Haas F1 Team have reportedly also signed another driver with a set of big sponsors, Mick Schumacher, who currently leads the F2 championship, with an announcement expected as soon as next week.

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