Nikita Mazepin is a Formula One driver in his rookie year for the Uralkali Haas F1 Team. The team is considered the worst team this year, as evidenced by their accumulation of zero points and finishing last in nearly every race this season.
On Friday, November 12, during Free Practice 1, Mazepin had a bad day, one that hit him harder than usual and one that the fans saw during his interview with the media. Without knowing more about him, watch the video below and think about your reaction to it, not knowing anything about the man.
To understand why Mazepin is so upset, you need to know a little bit of information about the 2021 Formula One season as it relates to him. Mazepin has been last in everything this year. Each race weekend, there is a Free Practice 1, 2, and 3, qualifying, and the race. There have been 19 races so far, which is 95 times he lost to his teammate. Add in three sprint races and that is 98 times, from March until November 14, where Mazepin has been last. His teammate, Mick Schumacher has beaten him soundly, often by several seconds in a sport where tenths of a second matter.
During Free Practice 1 (FP1), he was ahead of Schumacher by 2-3 tenths of a second. It may not mean much for a rookie driving for the worst team on the grid, but think about the mental toll that takes on a person. Every single time you go out, try your hardest, and it is never enough.
In this interview, we saw just how much it meant to Mazepin. He wants to finish ahead of his teammate. During his stint, Mazepin made one minor mistake. It was a tiny mistake, but tiny is huge in the world of F1.
As I watched the interview with Mazepin, I felt bad for him. I am not a Mazepin fan. Neither are many other F1 fans. The callousness of comments online toward him are unforgiving, mean, and sometimes disgusting.
Nikita Mazepin is generally known as a terrible human being. In December 2020, shortly after he signed for Haas, a video was uploaded to his Instagram account showing him groping a woman in the back seat of a car.
After watching that video, I joined the Mazepin hate train for quite some time. I changed my “flair” on the Formula One subreddit to “We say no to Mazepin.” Everyone was disgusted by the incident. The Sky Sports presenters commented on it for more than seven minutes, as did Matt Gallagher on Twitter.
The aftermath was ugly. Haas officials said things were taken care of behind closed doors. Mazepin gave a non-apology apology in which he said he would do better. The apology was taken down a few days later. The woman in the video made comments indicating it was consensual, then deleted it and posted another statement that it may not have been.
Many people were confused and upset. I saw it from the perspective of a female who was just assaulted by a young man whose father is a Russian billionaire and a shady businessman. The incident happened in an Arabic country. There honestly weren’t a lot of options for her other than to do what she did and then walk away. Is it right? That’s not for me to chose. She did what she needed to in order to feel safe and I’m okay with such a decision.
It was easy to hate Mazepin. Not only did he commit this heinous act, he had a long history of acting despicably.
He made homophobic comments toward George Russell. He punched Callum Ilott in the face for ruining his free practice lap. He has made and defended racist comments. He reportedly threw a party while the people in his town were mourning the deaths of workers in his father’s mine. He asked for a woman’s nudes to get a free paddock pass and got angry when she said no.
What do you think of the man in the video above now? Have your thoughts changed?
When Mazepin entered F1, he was unprepared for the rigors of the sport. His seat was purchased, denying someone more qualified a chance to race in the pinnacle of motor sport.
Mazepin has since addressed the groping incident several times, He told Sky Sports he has changed.
“I have taken the responsibility for it both on and off the circuit.
“We as human beings have to show a certain behaviour towards each other to live in a calm, humanitarian world so I’m confident I will be one of those humans from now on.”
There are many who will never forgive Mazepin for his generally shit attitude and history. They only see a rich person throwing money around to get what he wants.
F1 fans are still angry at him. I am, too. However, I know people can change. Mazepin is 22-years-old. Legally an adult, but not yet a man. To those of us who see Mazepin from the outside, he has never been held properly accountable for his actions. Money has always been the solution. Since joining F1, other than his father’s company, Uralkali, footing a large chunk of the bill at Haas, Mazepin has had to stand on his own.
To some degree, we are all products of our environment. You are the result of everything that has happened to you. How would your life be different if you had no worries and your father would take care of any “mishaps” you got into. If you were in Mazepin’s shoes, would you have behaved any differently?
He is still a kid. He’s a rookie who is getting demolished by his teammate every time he is on the track. During FP1, he had the pace. It might, finally, be his day. One tiny mistake, locking up on the kerb, meant he missed an apex, the fastest line in a corner, which changed everything. I can feel for a guy like that even with his terrible history.
On the track in Brazil, missing the apex in Sector 2 means your racing line for Sector 3 will be missed as well. It slows you down and ruins your lap. This is why he put himself down as he was coming back into the pits. You see in the video Mazepin does give a shit. Even though F1 is just a job for him and many other drivers, they still have a passion for the sport. He turns up every week giving a shit and wanting to be a better driver. The video shows just how much he cares and revealed, in a small way, the mental stress he is under. He wants to prove he is worthy of his seat.
My empathy toward Mazepin for what happened on the track during FP1 in no way changes how I feel about him overall. While Haas has failed both its drivers this year, only one of those drivers is despised while the other is the son of Formula One legend and seemingly untouchable toward criticism.
It’s additionally heartbreaking to read Mazepin had not been in a simulator for this track. He has never driven in Brazil and he has suffered a turnover in staff throughout the season, making it difficult to create the bonds normally made across a season between a driver and his team.
It’s easy to hate Mazepin. He’s given the world a lot of reasons to do so. He’s young. He behaves as a spoiled rich kid.
Many argue there is no reason to stop hating him. I believe he can change.
What we are witnessing is a young man, who should be a more responsible adult, but who has not yet had the opportunity to grow as a person. He didn’t really need to. Money solved his problems. Maybe he’s trying now. We don’t really know as we aren’t privy to all the behind the scenes of the life of Nikita Mazepin.
Being sympathetic toward Mazepin doesn’t mean forgetting, forgiving, or condoning what he has done. I can separate my sympathy for his day on the track and my disgust for his past actions. This may very well be his first public step in growing into a better man. As humans, do we not have it in us to allow him the chance to change and be a better man?
Life is difficult. For some, like me, it’s been hell. We are more than our mistakes or the traumas we’ve survived. The world doesn’t have enough good in it. So, we can continue to hate Mazepin and never give him a chance to grow and change or we can choose kindness, empathy, and hope. What will you chose?