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today is Jan 23, 2022

Haas fielded two rookie drivers during 2021, which makes assessing their performances tricky, particularly considering how uncompetitive their car was.

Nikita Mazepin

Beat team mate in qualifying 0/20 Beat team mate in race 3/14 Races finished 16/22 Laps spent ahead of team mate 325/914 Qualifying margin +0.61s Points 0

Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher each had only one-and-a-half days’ running in their new cars before the season began. The VF-21 was barely developed from its 2020 predecessor, aside from tweaks to ensure it met the altered technical regulations.

The team’s sink to the foot of the standings was therefore not unexpected. Its two inexperienced drivers knew what to expect: A year of learning and being ready to take advantage of any opportunities which might fall their way. In short, it wouldn’t be fair to look at the fact neither scored any points and conclude that both failed.

However, nor would it be fair to say Mazepin’s zero-point campaign showed he performed at the same level as Schumacher, who also ended the year point-less. In reality, there was a wide gulf between the pair.

That was reflected in the fact Schumacher was never out-qualified by his team mate on occasions where both drivers set times. To Mazepin’s credit, he never had to sit out a qualifying session due to a practice crash, which Schumacher did twice, but his average six-tenths-of-a-second deficit throughout 2021 was the largest between any pair of team mates.

In the rain-hit qualifying sessions at Sochi and Istanbul, Mazepin simply wasn’t able to get his tyres working as well as Schumacher, and the gap between them grew to entire seconds.

Mazepin also followed his team mate home in the races more often than not. Of the three occasions he came out on top, in Monaco his team mate was told to let him by due to a car problem, and at the other two Schumacher picked up damage.

This one-sided outcome was not down to a lack of trying on Mazepin’s part. At times his attempts to keep Schumacher behind verged on the desperate. Mazepin was fortunate to avoid any sanction for his dangerous swerve towards his team mate on the final lap in Baku.

As the pair seldom had other cars to race, it was far from the only run-in between the two. Of their tangles at Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Monza, Mazepin must shoulder the majority of blame for the latter two.

There were signs of improvement from Mazepin over the course of his debut season. He made an abundance of errors during the opening weekend in Bahrain, which he concluded with a first-lap spin into a gravel trap. Mistakes such as these became noticeably rare as he accumulated experience at the wheel of the VF-21, certainly compared to his team mate.

In a similar vein, after several run-ins with the stewards earlier in the year, these became less frequent as the season wore on, though track limits remained something of a bugbear.

But the progress he made in keeping his car on the track and staying out of trouble was not mirrored in the deficit to his similarly inexperienced team mate, which was as wide at the end of the season as it was at the start, if not greater.

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What’s your verdict on Nikita Mazepin’s 2021 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Add your views on the other drivers in the comments.

RaceFans’ annual driver rankings begins today, assessing all the drivers who competed in the majority of the 2021 F1 season. The series will continue over the coming weeks.

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