Russian driver Nikita Mazepin has been sacked by Haas ahead of the upcoming Formula 1 season, with the team also confirming that they have terminated their contract with title sponsor Uralkali with immediate effect.
Mazepin’s position had become increasingly uncertain during Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine, even after the FIA ruled that the 23-year-old would be allowed to continue racing under a neutral flag following an emergency meeting earlier this week.
Mazepin’s father, Dmitry, a Russian oligarch who is the majority shareholder in chemical company Uralchem and one of Haas’ major sponsors, was pictured with Vladimir Putin as recently as in January.
Haas removed Uralkali branding from its car during pre-season testing in Barcelona as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine accelerated and the team have now confirmed that they have terminated its contract with Mazepin and the company.
A statement released by Haas read: “Haas F1 Team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali, and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin.
“As with the rest of the Formula 1 community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”
Mazepin responded with an angry statement, in which he claimed he his offer to Haas to race under the terms proposed by the FIA has been “completely ignored”.
“Dear fans and followers, I am very disappointed to hear that my F1 contract has been terminated,” Mazepin said. “While I understand the difficulties, the ruling from the FIA plus my ongoing willingness to accept the conditions proposed in order to continue were completely ignored and no process was followed in this unilateral step.
“To those who have tried to understand, my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we all be together again in better times. I will have more to say in the coming days.”
Mazepin was the only Russian on the 20-driver grid and did not score a championship point on his rookie season with Haas last year.
Haas did not announce who would be replacing Mazepin and joining Mick Schumacher for the start of official pre-season testing on 10 March. The 2022 Formula One season then gets underway at the Bahrain Grand Prix on 20 March.
The American-owned team are expected to name a replacement next week, with reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, linked with the seat. Former Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi has also been tipped as a potential replacement.
It comes after Formula 1 terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix on Thursday. The 2022 race scheduled to take place in Sochi in September had already been cancelled, but it was confirmed there will no longer be a race in 2023 either.
The Russian Grand Prix had been set to move to St Petersburg next year, with Putin closely associated with the race and reportedly key in bringing the sport to Russia for the first time in 2014.
In his driver’s press conference in Barcelona last week, Mazepin had offered only a vague answer when questioned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“As an athlete competing at the highest level you know what’s going on in the world at the moment and obviously it involves Russia,” he said.
“I’m not struggling at all because I’ve always been a big supporter of sports without politics and today I’m in Barcelona.”
The news comes after the International Paralympic Committee reversed its decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral flag amid fears of a boycott. The athletes are now banned from competing at the Games, while Fifa and Uefa have also taken the step to suspend Russia from all club and national fixtures.