In a world of Hamilton versus Verstappen, Formula 1 fans may not be paying much attention to the back end of the F1 grid but one of the most interesting battles this year has been the fight between Haas drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. The car is well off the pace and the team is using this season as a learning year for its two novice drivers, but they hope to be back in the fight in 2022.
Mazepin, of course, has been much in the spotlight on social media since late last year when he posted a controversial video. He concluded long ago that the best way to end the attacks was to get on with his job. He is willing to admit that “what I have done was not right” but then adds “we have already discussed it enough, I think.”
Being under such scrutiny and then having a troubled start to his F1 career, which fed the critics who claim he is only there because his father is rich, meant that there was more pressure on the 22-year-old than would normally be the case for an F1 debutant.
“Coming into the first race, you don’t want to bring things from the off-season back,” he says. “I would say, pretty honestly, that once the Thursday of the first grand prix was out of the way - which was a little bit stressful for my team - it has been okay. The Bahrain weekend created some very weird emotions. Everything was so new and it wasn’t a normal venue for a first race in F1. It was my first night race - which I absolutely loved. I get goosebumps when I talk about it.
“But unfortunately that weekend wasn’t a very smooth ride for me and I obviously didn’t help with my driving style.”
Mazepin has been able to rationalise what happened now that he has had a little time to digest the events, after his race lasted 25 seconds following a spin between turns two and three.
“I had had a three-day test there that went very well,” he explains, “and I tried to start that first FP1 in the place that I finished on the third day of the test. That was a sensible thing to do, but given that we swapped cars and the conditions had changed, I didn’t do a very good job of adapting to it. I just kept trying to do the things that had worked the previous week. I needed to do well - and I did exactly the opposite.”