Haas F1 team fires Russian driver Nikita Mazepin after ending Uralkali sponsorship

Mazepin fired Haas
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Russian driver Nikita Mazepin was fired by Haas F1 despite the FIA ruling he could compete in Formula One races under a neutral flag.

Haas also ended its sponsorship with Uralkali, the Russian fertilizer company owned by Mazepin’s father. Dmitry Mazepin is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his son’s contract to drive was linked to the team sponsorship.

“As with the rest of the Formula 1 community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict,” Haas said in a statement Saturday.

Formula One earlier this week terminated its contract with the Russian GP. The race in Sochi was contracted through 2025.

That put the spotlight on Haas, an American team entering its seventh season of F1 competition. Haas last year overhauled its lineup and added rookies Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher.

Haas removed the Uralkali sponsorship markings from its cars last week following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Mazepin’s status remained uncertain. The FIA ruled Friday all drivers must agree to its principles of peace and neutrality and “acknowledge the strong commitment made by the FIA to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”

Mazepin posted on Twitter he had agreed to the stipulations and was disappointed in Haas’ decision.

“While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored and no process was followed in this unilateral step,” Mazepin wrote.

“I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times.”

Haas did not announce a replacement for Mazepin, who turned 23 earlier this week. He did not score a point last season and was derisively referred to as “Mazespin” for his propensity to bring out the caution flag.

He also nearly lost his ride before his debut after being disciplined by the team for an apparent harassment video.

Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, is the reserve driver for Haas. He competed in two races for Haas in 2020 as the replacement for injured driver Romain Grosjean.

The 25-year-old was born in Miami and holds dual citizenship in Brazil and the United States. Fittipaldi, who lives in North Carolina not far from Haas’ primary headquarters, ran three IndyCar races last season. He was in Abu Dhabi for the F1 season finale when Mazepin tested positive for COVID-19, but Fittipaldi was not eligible to replace him in the car because he’d not been on track that weekend.

F1 testing continues in Bahrain next week. The season opens March 20 in Bahrain.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III