Nikita Masepin hands out after being kicked out of Formula 1
Ein a dig at Mick Schumacher, no clear statement about his father’s closeness to Putin and an idiosyncratic view of the war in Ukraine: the Russian Nikita Masepin took a stand at the Haas racing team after being thrown out and sees himself as the victim of a great injustice. “I lost my dream, which I fought for 18 years of my life,” said Masepin on Wednesday: “I don’t think that’s fair.”
One day before the start of the final test drives in Bahrain, the 23-year-old sat in Moscow and presented his view of things in a one-hour video meeting. “Do we want the sport to become just another stage for protests and political debates?” Masepin asked at the beginning and dared to compare it with the Olympic boycotts of the 1980s: “Or is sport an opportunity to connect people in the most difficult times?”
The togetherness was soon over. A sweeping attack on his former companions followed. It also hit his former teammate Schumacher. Some drivers like George Russell, Valtteri Bottas or Charles Leclerc would have sent him encouraging messages. On the other hand, he had heard nothing from Schumacher. “In situations like these, your true self shows,” said Masepin, who had a divided relationship with the German during the 2021 season.
The anger about Günther Steiner is even greater. Masepin accused the team boss of insincerity. You could always rely on Steiner’s word “110 percent,” said Masepin. He then found out about his termination without warning when the decision was published last Saturday. Since then there has been no contact with Steiner.
“Is there no place for neutrality in sport?”
Masepin does not see a basis for his dismissal – and does not rule out legal action: “We are keeping all options open.” The bottom of the previous season repeatedly referred to a decision by the world association FIA, which allows Russian and Belarusian drivers to start under a neutral FIA flag. “Is there no place for neutrality in sport?” he asked.
Masepin has doubts about this. His billionaire father Dmitri is the majority shareholder in Uralkali – the Russian mining company was the main sponsor at Haas – and has excellent connections to the Kremlin. For the US racing team, the proximity to President Vladimir Putin was no longer justifiable after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Masepin ignored questions about his father’s Kremlin connection. He only commented briefly on the war – and denied the West the sovereignty of interpretation. “Those who do not live in this part of the world or were not born here” would see only part of the conflict. People from Russia and Ukraine would understand him on many more levels.
He has clear ideas about his future. “The Formula 1 chapter is not yet over for me,” said Masepin, who only ruled out a return to Haas. He also announced the creation of a foundation. This is intended to support athletes who “for political reasons and without their control have lost the opportunity to compete at the highest level.”