F1’s only Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, has been barred from the British Grand Prix this year and although he has been allowed to remain involved with Haas by the FIA – competing under a neutral flag – he is set to be sacked by his team regardless.
In other Russia news, Formula One will not be returning to Sochi after terminating their contract for the Russian Grand Prix and stating “Russia will not have a race in the future”.
Big news on Thursday came with reigning champion Max Verstappen signing a new contract with Red Bull, keeping him with the team until 2028. He still had two years to run on his existing deal, but the new paycheck bumps him up to around £40m a year – roughly on par with Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes – ahead of the 2022 season, which starts in Bahrain later this month.
Aiming to retain the drivers’ championship this year will be Hamilton and new team-mate George Russell, with Mercedes chief Toto Wolff making clear he blames Red Bull and the FIA for the failings of former race director Michael Masi last season.
Follow all the latest news and reaction below.
Red Bull have ‘ruined a few great drivers’, McLaren chief claims
Max Verstappen secured his first F1 world title in 2021 having progressed through the ranks at Red Bull, following the achievements and career path of four-time drivers’ championship winner Sebastian Vettel.
While Daniel Ricciardo would also be counted as a success of Red Bull’s driver development program, helmed by Helmut Marko, Brown believes that the team has been detrimental to a number of promising young drivers.
Mexican driver Pato O’Ward is now a highly-competitive youngster in IndyCar with McLaren, and Brown thinks that O’Ward warranted greater opportunities than those afforded him by Christian Horner and his team.
“[Pato O’Ward] definitely slipped through the cracks,” Brown said to The Race.
“I think Red Bull, while he was there, they only gave him about three races [in junior categories]. But if you look at Red Bull’s history other than Max, they have let a handful of great drivers slip through their hands.
“I think they’ve ruined a few that I think had it, but weren’t given enough opportunity.”
Karl Matchett4 March 2022 11:30
Aston Martin face fight to keep Sebastian Vettel after 2022
Sebastian Vettel departed Ferrari for Aston Martin after the 2020 season, but only managed to finish 12th in the driver standings last season and the team know they have to offer more to keep him around.
Vettel won four championships with Red Bull earlier in his career and team principal Mike Krack knows Aston Martin need to offer a faster car if they want to keep the German around beyond a second season.
“It’s clear that a guy like Sebastian, a four-time World Champion, he doesn’t want to be 15th or 12th or P8, that’s clear,” Krack told assembled media.
“It’s our task to deliver a performing car or, say, a performing structure because I think Sebastian is a clever guy. He will not be focusing just on this year’s car or whatever but focusing more on what is happening and if he sees the potential.
“So if we can manage to offer this to him, I think we have a chance to keep him for longer. To be honest with you, I have not spoken with him about it – this is something that will have to come.
“But all in all, it is our task to deliver the right package, then Sebastian will stay and other drivers will like to join.”
Karl Matchett4 March 2022 11:21
Toto Wolff blames Red Bull and FIA for Michael Masi mistakes last Abu Dhabi
Toto Wolff has laid the blame for ex-race director Michael Masi’s mistakes in the 2021 season firmly at the door of the FIA and Red Bull, insisting that the relationship between Mercedes’ rival team and Masi was a problem for some time and that the governing body should have put distance between them.
Ultimately, the Mercedes chief feels that Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley had undue influence on the race director, who has been replaced for the new season, which Max Verstappen ultimately benefitted from.
“He’s [Wheatley] turned Michael Masi the race director, not only in Abu Dhabi but before, and probably Max owes him a lot,” Wolff said in a Sky F1 documentary.
“I haven’t spoken to [Masi] and I don’t want to speak to him ever again. His decisions were wrong and I’m sure that he regrets them
“The FIA should have seen much earlier that there was a problem. There was a problem with the structure. There was a problem of personalities.”
Wolff also acknowledged that he felt sorry for Verstappen, as the manner of his win last season meant the focus and the fall-out was on the controversy rather than the champion.
“I feel for Max. He merits the World Championship, but there’s only talk about Abu Dhabi.”
Karl Matchett4 March 2022 11:00
Drive to Survive review: F1 fans will be gripped by a series still way ahead of the pack
Speaking of Drive to Survive, our Sports Feature Writer Vithushan Ehantharajah has taken a look at what to expect from season four and, fair to say, it is an absolute sledgehammer of high-impact viewing:
“Barely a minute into season four of Drive to Survive and we’re all in. A compilation of crashes, expletives, explosions and wry smiles from some of the most recognisable faces on the planet, grimaces and sharp-tongued utterances from some of the richest people. The retelling of one of the most remarkable campaigns in all of sport has not even begun, and yet already the compulsion is to tell it to shut up and take our money.
“On Friday, 11 March, Netflix will throw open the doors of Formula One’s 2021 season with the expectation that it will break the records set by the previous three. To have bared real-time witness to the rollercoaster that culminated in Max Verstappen’s maiden title in remarkable fashion was to have watched something very special. And throughout a year where the narrative turned just as sharply as the cars on the track, the anticipation of the newest offering of Drive to Survive was almost too great to comprehend.”
Read Vithushan’s full five-star preview here:
Karl Matchett4 March 2022 10:45
Mazepin threatened to withdraw sponsor over Haas car last season
One of the many interesting snippets to come from the forthcoming Drive To Survive series, following F1 throughout last season, also involves Haas and Nikita Mazepin’s father Dmitry.
He is the owner of Uralkali, the main sponsor for Haas in 2021, but racefans.net report on how he threatened to pull his funding for the team if they didn’t switch chassis between Nikita’s car and team-mate Mick Schumacher.
At the Spanish Grand Prix he told the team that they had to “switch the cars” because “everybody knows that someone has an advantage,” after the Russian constantly finished behind his German counterpart.
“If it doesn’t change, I will send an official letter that we stop financing and stop racing. It will be a huge problem with the money,” he said.
Karl Matchett4 March 2022 10:30
Haas to confirm they have ‘separated’ from Nikita Mazepin
Nikita Mazepin is, by the FIA’s official ruling, allowed to compete in Formula One this year – albeit under a neutral flag and with his father’s company, Uralkali, having been removed from the team’s livery branding.
The relationship between driver, sponsor and F1 team has been an uneasy one and events in Ukraine seem to have led to a total parting of the ways, with Sky Germany reporting that Haas have “separated” from Mazepin and reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will take over for testing in Bahrain.
He would then be Mick Schumacher’s new team-mate for the season if no further changes are made for the long term, with the Brazilian-American having raced twice at the end of the 2020 season.
Mazepin failed to land any points last season, in what was his debut campaign in F1.
Karl Matchett4 March 2022 10:20
Red Bull delighted to tie down ‘best driver on the grid’ Max Verstappen
The five-year contract extension, which could earn Verstappen as much as £40million-a-season, is arguably the most lucrative in F1 history, and will see the world champion remain at Red Bull until the end of 2028.
Verstappen’s current contract, worth around £20m-a-year, was due to expire at the end of next season. But the Dutchman, 24, has been rewarded for beating seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to the title.
Verstappen’s salary hike matches the 37-year-old Hamilton’s £80m two-year Mercedes deal.
“To have Max signed with Red Bull through to the end of 2028 is a real statement of intent,” said team principal Christian Horner.
“Max was the outstanding driver of last year. He was the world champion and mentally it takes that pressure off. He has that first tick in the box, but I don’t think anything will change in the way he goes racing.
“He will give 110 per cent, and with new engine regulations for 2026 we wanted to make sure we had the best driver on the grid secured for that car.”
Karl Matchett4 March 2022 09:53