Haas terminate contract of Russian driver Nikita Mazepin amid Ukraine crisis

By Sports Desk March 05, 2022

Formula One team Haas have cancelled the contract of Russian driver Nikita Mazepin amid the Ukraine crisis.

Mazepin's father, Dmitry, has close ties to Vladimir Putin, holding face-to-face business talks with the Russian President as recently as January.

Dmitry Mazepin is deputy chairman of Uralkali, the potash producer that has been a major financial backer of Haas.

As well as ousting 23-year-old Mazepin, who was the only Russian with an F1 drive for the 2022 season, the commercial tie-up with Uralkali has also been scrapped.

It comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues. Thousands have reportedly been killed since the start of the attack on February 24, including many civilians.

Haas said in a statement on Saturday: "Haas F1 team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin.

"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 removed the Uralkali logos from its cars for the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona last month.

The team's other driver is Mick Schumacher, son of German great Michael Schumacher. Haas have yet to announce who will replace Mazepin in the new season, which gets under way in Bahrain in two weeks' time.

The Russian Grand Prix for 2022 has been cancelled, with F1 announcing this week it has terminated its deal for future races in the country.

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    The Monster Energy Yamaha rider's lead over Aleix Espargaro at the top of the standings was cut from 34 points to 21 after failing to finish Sunday's race in Assen.

    After a near blemish-free season up to this point, reigning world champion Quartararo uncharacteristically clattered into Espargaro early on when pushing for second place.

    Both riders ended in the gravel, but whereas Espargaro was able to make up significant ground to finish fourth, Quartararo again came off his bike on lap 12.

    He lost grip on his rear tyre and was sent flying over his handlebars in a nasty fall, with this his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia 2020.

    Quartararo apologised to Espargaro immediately after the race, which was won by Francesco Bagnaia, and took full blame for the contentious incident.

    "I made a rookie mistake. I wanted to push too much from the beginning," he told Canal+. "I apologise to Aprilia and to Aleix for putting him out of the track.

    "It's with these mistakes that you learn for the future, but it was a really stupid mistake. We could very well have set a very good pace and fought for the win. 

    "These are mistakes that you learn from for the future. I wanted to restart and try to score some points, but I saw that the bike was a problem. 

    "I stopped, the team told me to restart in case of rain, but when I restarted, I could see that something was wrong.

    "I tried, but I don't know [what happened]. We have to analyse the crash, but I lost the rear a bit abruptly, so we'll see what they say. I made a rookie mistake."

    Despite seeing his lead cut, Quartararo still holds a healthy advantage at the top of the riders' standings heading into the five-week break.

    Espargaro produced the ride of the day – and one of the best individual rides of the season – to recover from 15th after being sent off the track by his title rival.

    The Aprilia rider overtook Jack Miller and Brad Binder on the final lap to finish just outside the podium places, but he could not make a serious dent in Quartararo's title lead. 

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    "Today, it's not that he was arrogant. But because he felt super, a lot faster than the rest, he made a bad judgment.

    "I knew this could happen. From this moment I said to myself – Fabio is almost perfect, he made no mistakes during the season, so if he makes one mistake you have to profit."

    Ducati's poleman Bagnaia led from the start to move back to within 66 points of Quartararo with nine rounds to go.

    The Italian, who is fourth in the championship, now has three wins and three retirements in his past six races.

    Bagnaia never looked like relinquishing first place to Marco Bezzecchi, although he admitted to being "terrified" of a third DNF in a row when rain hit late on in the Netherlands.

    "Looking at the gap with Bezzecchi, he was always catching," Bagnaia said. "I had to push again, I had to open this gap again to be smarter and more calm again later in the race.

    "But then the rain came. When I saw the rain, I just slowed down a bit, but Bezzecchi was pushing again.

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    Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

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    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

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    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
    4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
    5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
    6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
    7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
    8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
    9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
    10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
    2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
    3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
    4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
    5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

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    2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
    3. Ducati 197
    4. Pramac Racing 184
    5. Red Bull KTM 164

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    Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

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    The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

    Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

    The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

    The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

    It was not quite an all-Ducati podium as Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, could not catch Maverick Vinales as he claimed his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

    Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

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    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
    2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
    3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
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