Steiner won't confirm Mazepin F1 future after changing Haas livery 'out of respect'


Haas removed its red, white and blue livery out of respect after the Ukraine invasion, says team boss Guenther Steiner, who was tight-lipped about the future of Russian F1 driver Nikita Mazepin


Nikita Mazepin was in the car this morning but his future is uncertain

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Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 future appears uncertain after team principal Guenther Steiner was unable to confirm that the driver would remain with the team following the Ukraine invasion.

The 22-year-old has pulled out of a planned press conference on the final day of testing at Barcelona, but has been driving this morning, in a Haas running a white livery.

The team has removed the branding of title sponsor Uralkali overnight, including the red, white and blue stripes that it shares with the Russian flag, which Steiner said was a mark of “respect” in solidarity with Ukraine.

“After what happened yesterday morning it was the decision we wanted to take,” he told Motor Sport. “It’s one of these decisions you sometimes need to take – the events of the yesterday morning triggered this one.”

Steiner said that he could not comment on whether Uralkali would remain a sponsor, or whether Mazepin would remain with the team — both being linked.


Haas VF-22 was stripped of Uralkali branding overnight

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Mazepin’s seat is funded by his Russian oligarch father, Dmitry, who runs Uralkali. Mazepin Sr has regularly been photographed with Vladimir Putin and the firm has been identified as being at risk of sanctions.

“In the moment we are here to test, we want to finish this and then we see the future,” said Steiner when asked about the rest of the season.

Steiner said that he had spoken with Uralkali before deciding to strip its branding from the car and the team trucks, although it remains on the uniforms of team members. He also secured the agreement of owner Gene Haas.

“Oh for sure, I wouldn’t do this one without talking to Gene, he owns the team,” said Steiner when asked where the decision came from. “I spoke with the board of Haas Automation, I spoke with the sponsors, it was taken in unison, altogether.”

Although Haas’s livery is in the same white, blue and red formation as the Russian flag, Haas has always denied the connection. Teams are banned from carrying the flag because of Russia’s state-sponsored doping campaigns.

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The decision to remove the livery casts more doubt on previous claims that the colours simply reflect the branding of its sponsor — already seen as dubious because Uralkali predominantly uses green and red.

Haas has had a chequered history with sponsorship deals. In 2019 in announced a title sponsorship with the Rich Energy drink branded, headed by outspoken entrepreneur Williams Storey. The deal ended in controversy not long after Storey announced halfway through the season that he was cancelling the sponsorship via social media, apparently due to the team’s poor performance.

“For me these are challenges you see life,” Steiner commented on the team’s sponsorship woes. “I could do without them, I’m not looking for them, but they happen.

“When we signed the deal with Uralkali, who would have known that there would be a war going on in a year’s time? I had no impact on that one. Everything was going fine until this happened, but in life sometimes you need to make decisions even if they’re not easy, and they come to you and you just need to deal with it.

“What makes you suffer makes you tougher and as I’ve suffered a lot, I’m pretty tough.”