After enduring a miserable debut F1 weekend, rookie Nikita Mazepin must sharpen up if he is to silence the critics.
Entering F1 as a rookie driver is hard enough at the best of times; it is even more challenging for Nikita Mazepin with all the baggage that he carries into his debut season. Mazepin’s off-track behaviour came into sharp focus during the off-season, and that immediately put a target on his back.
There are only 20 seats available in F1; it is the most exclusive of all clubs. Therefore, new drivers are quickly under the spotlight. Add Mazepin’s questionable attitude to his Father bankrolling his drive and there’s a ton of pressure on the Russian. Mazepin needed a quiet weekend.
No-one is expecting the Haas car to challenge for points regularly – even the team themselves, who stated in the pre-season that they are focusing on 2022. Consequently, the pressure should be off Mazepin. All he needs to do is have quiet weekends and get close to teammate Mick Schumacher.
Unfortunately, Mazepin endured a torrid weekend that was anything but quiet. He spun off during the practice and then doubled-down in qualifying as he overtook the faster cars on his outlap only to spin off in front of them and ruin their flying laps.
It got worse in the race; Mazepin lit up the rear tyres on the exit of turn two that sent him straight into the gravel trap, into the wall and out of the race.
Ultimately, it was an awful weekend. Now there are some mitigating circumstances. The Haas is tricky to drive; we saw Mick Schumacher spin by himself at turn-four on the restart. Moreover, Kimi Raikkonen also spun off on the exit of turn two.
However, Raikkonen owns the cache of being a world champion with a wealth of experience. Conversely, Schumacher is the reigning F2 champion. Those drivers possess enough accolades on their CVs to justify their F1 drive.
Mazepin doesn’t; the 22-year-old driver has never won a championship in the junior categories. Contrast that to a driver like Charles Leclerc, who struggled in his first few races, Leclerc was a serial winner in the lower formulae-that gave him time.
Mazepin’s track record is not good enough to warrant an F1 drive, and most fans could list three or four drivers on the outside that are more deserving of a place.
Subsequently, the criticism will come very quickly until he can prove his doubters wrong. Already people are calling the Russian, MazeSpin, and there’s even a website that documents how long it’s been since his last F1 spin. If he continues to spin-off in the following weekends, the critics will get even louder.
Mazepin is an abrasive character; nevertheless, no-one wishes to fail in front of a global audience. That is hard to with for anybody. Furthermore, Hass won’t want to see their car constantly getting written off and ridiculed in front of the world.
Nikita Mazepin is already under tremendous pressure. Luckily for him, no-one expects him to out-perform the car; they want him to bring the car back in one piece. If he can’t do that, the harmful noise could become deafening, and his F1 dream could quickly descend into a nightmare.