Nikita Mazepin won’t adopt different flag to boost F1 return hopes

·2-min read
Nikita Mazepin in the Haas garage. Spain, February 2022. Credit: PA Images
Nikita Mazepin in the Haas garage. Spain, February 2022. Credit: PA Images

Nikita Mazepin said he would not drop the Russian flag even if it increased his chances of a return to Formula 1.

According to rsport.ria.ru, Russian driver Sergey Karyakin told the news agency RIA Novosti that drivers from the country would not be allowed to participate in international competitions, such as the Dakar Rally, without a written statement condemning the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The news site reports that another Russian racer, Konstantin Zhiltsov, changed sports citizenship to Israeli in order to be able to participate in competitions.

However, that is not an option that Mazepin wants to pursue even if it were to mean a return to Formula 1 was more likely.

Mazepin was sacked by Haas just nine days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and he was later replaced by Kevin Magnussen. The team also dropped their title sponsor Uralkali, who are owned by Mazepin’s father.

At the time, the FIA and F1 said Russian and Belarusian drivers would be allowed to race under a neutral flag, something Mazepin, who was born in Moscow, claimed he had agreed to but it seems that is no longer case.

“People cannot be condemned,” the 23-year-old said. “We are athletes. Everyone has a choice, it must be respected.

“Zhiltsov is not the only one, [Russian turned Israeli driver] Robert Shwartzman did the same. There is a question of personal considerations.

“Whether you want to give up your country for sport and it is more important for you or not – everyone chooses for himself, but I will not do it.

“It wasn’t a surprise to me [Kariakin’s words]. I was one of the first to receive this document and I studied it very clearly, back in early March. It’s everyone’s decision.

“I would very much like athletes to have the opportunity to be neutral, I fight for that. I know Sergey very well, I know his position and I respect it.”

Mazepin announced in July that he was suing former employers Haas for alleged unpaid wages.

The Russian, who finished 21st in his only season in F1, also stated he hoped to see the Russian Grand Prix return to the calendar after it too lost its place in the sport following Russia’s invasion.

“[I] took it with great sadness, realised it was all coming to this,” Mazepin said. “I am very sorry. I remember those fantastic feelings when I performed at the stage in Russia.

“I wish the drivers and spectators could experience it again soon. But things can change very quickly, both negatively and positively. I hope for the best,” said Mazepin.

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