Written by Isabel Brito, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 career has been a tumultuous one, but recent news have surfaced that the Russian may have another shot in the premier motorsport series. Starting in Russian Karting and winning the championship, Mazepin then started his journey on international karting in 2011. The Russian had a breakthrough run in motor racing, moving up from one series to another exceptionally quickly.
The Russian driver won second place in the Karting World Championship, before moving to the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 in 2014. After driving in different series such as the Toyota Racing Series and the Formula Renault Northern European Cup, Nikita eventually stepped up to the Formula 3 European Championship, and the FIA Formula 2 Championship, on his way to a Formula One seat in 2021.
Mazepin started out as a test driver for the Sahara Force India team in 2016, and kept the role for two seasons, before being signed by Haas for the 2021 season. He competed under a neutral flag, following the Court of Arbitration for Sport acknowledging the ban by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Russia, which meant Russian athletes could only compete on a neutral flag. The ban was announced in 2019, when it was found most Russian athletes competed under the influence.
Unfortunately, Nikita’s time with Haas was the epitome of chaos and disaster. With Nikita’s father Dmitry Mazepin’s company Uralkali being the title sponsor of the team, a lot of money was at stake. Recurring issues with the car in terms of poor balance and performance, along with frequent crashes led the father and son to believe the car was tampered. The end of the season was total chaos. Having scored no points and being tested positive for covid, there wasn’t much else that could be done.
Despite all the problems and events of the year prior, Nikita was signed for the 2022 season until Haas terminated his contract as well as the title sponsorship, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. For very valid reasons, he was unhappy with the decision, as he wasn’t a part of the group supporting the attack on Ukraine. However, Mazepin did sue Haas for unpaid wages, before moving to other motorsport series.
The General Court of the EU (European Union) found Nikita within the sanctions to Russia from 2022, stemming from his father’s involvement in the company Uralkali, as chairman and main sponsor of the Haas Formula 1 team. In the case document, it is stated that, “He is a natural person associated with a leading businessperson (his father) involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the Government of the Russian Federation, which is responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Ukraine.” (Order of the president of the General Court, curia.europa.eu).
Nikita Mazepin was merely a side effect of the sanction on his father, and this year, the General Court has suspended the effect of this sanction on him. The court granted certain measures to enable Mazepin to enter the EU, and negotiate any potential contract with a Formula 1 team, however, he will still have to race under a neutral flag.
As per the European sanctions, the court made this decision for the following reasons:
The Court stated that the case should go to a full hearing, as the case was still arguable because the EU does not have any evidence that Nikita Mazepin was benefitting from the sponsorship his father’s company has with the Haas F1 Team.
No evidence existed that when he was re-signed to the team he could still be benefitting, even though the sponsorship agreement had been dissolved. In this regard, the court stated that being a family member of the businessmen was not enough, and it was only based on presumptions.
The measures taken could, and would cause Nikita Mazepin severe harm to his career if the sanctions on him were not suspended. However, the measures are to be renewed.
The driver’s interest goes beyond the interest of the EU.
Even though the sanctions have been lifted, this is only a temporary measure, and it is unknown when or what will happen in terms of procedure following the temporary suspension. As of now, Nikita has continued racing, with his latest appearance being in the Asian Le Mans Series for 99 Racing, earning him a runners-up finish at the finale in Abu Dhabi.
It is safe to say that, as of now, there may be a possibility of Nikita Mazepin making a Formula One comeback. Although this isn't expected, the sport is ever-changing and unpredictable. Be it for one of the already existing teams, or in one of the teams entering the sport in 2026, the door is open for Nikita to make a return and show the world his potential in the pinnacle of motorsport.