Nikita Mazepin is a 22-years-old driver from Russia who is spending his debut season in Formula 1. Mazepin’s career traditionally began with karting when he was 7 years old. And in 2014, he achieved outstanding results, finishing second in the World Championship organized by the FIA.
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Since that moment the Russian has consistently showcased his talent across various racing categories. In 2016-17 Mazepin spent two seasons in Formula 3 for Hitech Grand Prix. And in the first year, the driver signed a contract with the Formula 1 Force India, becoming their development driver. 2018 was very successful for Nikita: he moved to GP3, where during the season claimed eight podiums, scored 198 points and became the runner-up of the championship!
In 2019, the Russian got the seat in Formula 2, where he spent two seasons. And after an outstanding 2020 campaign for Hitech GP, he started 2021 in a new status as a Formula 1 driver. Recently, Haas extended the contract with him for the next season. We called Nikita during the Russian Grand Prix and talked to him about his debut year in F1 and how ready the team is for 2022.
Jastina Golopolosova: Hi Nikita! It is a pleasure to meet you! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the contract extension with Haas.
Nikita Mazepin: Hi! Thanks a lot! Good to see you too!
JG: The first part of your debut season in Formula 1 is over. What conclusions have you made for yourself based on the results of this period?
NM: First, it should be noted that the season began tough. We’ve got into an unfortunate situation where one of the chassis, which we were using. It did not work as we thought. And since I got the old 2020 chassis, it took us a while to realize that it was not working and then order a new one. And this also took some time. But all the difficulties are over.
I doubt that we will be able to compete with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. Therefore, we work at the highest possible speeds. But I am sure that a pool of several thousand people in top teams will definitely put us in a difficult situation.
JG: So now you feel more confident in the second half of the season?
NM: Yes, now I am quite comfortable in the championship, in the car as well. So we will move forward.
JG: And what was the most difficult thing for you in Formula 1 after moving from Formula 2?
NM: The hardest part turned out to be working with a larger team, which several times exceeds the figure of 100 people. And setting up the car with so many shifts on the steering wheel was complicated.
JG: Speaking about the Haas car, this year it has not received significant updates or changes, all to prepare the car for the new regulations of 2022. For example, in Hungary, the team has already tested an innovative divider for cleaning the airflow over the wheels. Does this mean that Haas is now ahead of the rest of the teams in the 2022 technical race?
NM: I do not think this means exactly that. I doubt that we will be able to compete with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. Therefore, we work at the highest possible speeds. But I am sure that a pool of several thousand people in top teams will definitely put us in a difficult situation.
JG: Do the drivers themselves take part in the development of new cars?
NM: Of course, they do. The new car must be successful not only from a theoretical point of view but also from a physical one. To suit the racer’s style of driving.
JG: Could you tell me about your role in this process?
NM: I work very closely with the team: I meet with them in person; or call up and watch presentations about the ideas that we will use; how we will add downforce, how will distribute aerodynamics throughout the chassis. But so far, things are not going the way we want.
JG: Understand. Let’s talk about racing. This year, Formula 1 is trying to introduce the sprint racing format into the championship. Do you think this innovation will take root in Formula 1, or is it more the history of Formula 2?
NM: I am a big fan of sprint racing because the weekend with them becomes more lively and dynamic. Each spectator appears to be on the track on Friday. That is, in this format, you invite the fans to be with you all three days because something important happens every day. Therefore, yes, I like this format. It motivates me. I would be glad if Formula 1 kept it.
JG: Which sprint qualifying did you like the most: at Silverstone or Monza?
NM: I really liked Silverstone because the whole weekend was going well, and the first experience is always the brightest.
JG: Great! And if we talk about ordinary races, which is your brightest one, and which is the strangest for you now?
NM: The strangest one, probably, was in Bahrain, because in general everything did not go according to plan, the car worked not the way it should, and it was very difficult. The brightest one – I hope will be Sochi.
I am a big fan of sprint racing because the weekend with them becomes more lively and dynamic. Each spectator appears to be on the track on Friday. That is, in this format, you invite the fans to be with you all three days because something important happens every day. Therefore, yes, I like this format, it motivates me. I would be glad if Formula 1 kept it.
JG: How did you react to the news about the transfer of the Russian Grand Prix to the Igora Drive track in 2 years?
NM: I love Sochi, and not only to perform there. I also spent a substantial amount of time here without the Russian Grand Prix. I am glad that we still have at least this year, and there will be a stage next year. But I am sure that the management that makes such decisions understands the level of the event that they managed to create here. And I hope that this level will definitely not be lower in St. Petersburg.
JG: Is it true that the Netflix crew is filming you in Sochi for the new season of Drive to Survive? And you even go with them to Moscow State University?
NM: Yes, it’s true. We spent three days with them in Moscow. They filmed a substantial amount of different content: we were in the gym at my house, rode a buggy on my track and also went to a lecture. Therefore, it will be fascinating and I hope that even Russian viewers will enjoy it.
JG: Cool! How do you like the series in general? Have you watched it?
NM: I have not watched Drive to Survive since the first season ended. But I will definitely watch the new one when it comes out.
JG: Nikita, there are statistics: the British driver won the British Grand Prix, the Dutch driver won the Netherlands Grand Prix, the half-Italian driver won the Italian Grand Prix, and the Russian driver will win the Russian Grand Prix?
NM: [Smiles] The Russian driver wants this very much! And if you can turn the results in qualifying so that my teammate and I are the first to start, we will be happy to try it.
JG: Great answer! Thank you very much, Nikita! Have a great weekend in Sochi. Thank you!