Amid all the uncertainty surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the calls to cancel the Russian Grand Prix, Haas’ sponsors Uralkali have come under the spotlight.
The American team decided to remove all branding by the Russian fertiliser producer from their car and paddock buildings last night and instead have chosen to run a blank livery instead of their red and blue design.
Nikita Mazepin brings significant sponsorship to team through his father’s company, ensuring Haas’ survival during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, their Team Principal Guenther Steiner has admitted that the Russian’s seat isn’t guaranteed.
When asked by The Race about Mazepin’s future, Steiner revealed that “it needs to be resolved”.
“Not everything depends on us here. There are governments involved, and I have no power over them. And I think we need to see also the situation, how it develops in Ukraine.”
The issue won’t be resolved overnight, with Steiner stating that discussions will take place next week to look into Mazepin’s seat and any potential legal issues with Uralkali’s sponsorship.
“I am not going to do it today. We made the decision yesterday with our team partners that [removing the Uralkali branding] is what we’re going to do,” he added.
Mazepin’s place on the grid has been heavily criticised from the start after a number of incidents, including punching ex-Ferrari junior Callum Ilott in the face during after an F3 practice session in 2016 and after a video emerged of him appearing to grab woman inappropriately.
He then went on to endure a tough rookie season that saw him languish at the back of the grid and be well beaten by teammate Mick Schumacher.
However, it seems the team owned by Gene Haas aren’t reliant on Uralkali’s funding and have already had interest from several potential drivers should Mazepin lose his seat.
There are also calls to ban Russians from obtaining visas, which would prevent Mazepin from attending several races on the calendar. Their reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi could be an option, or an American driver perhaps?
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