Haas F1 Team Goes For Youth Over Experience with First 2021 Driver Pick

The Haas F1 Team going with youth over experience for its driver pairing in 2021.

On Tuesday, the team confirmed that it is dipping into the Formula 2 ranks and has signed 21-year-old Russian Nikita Mazepin to a multi-year deal. A similar deal for 21-year-old Mick Schumacher is expected soon.

Mazepin is currently third place in the Formula 2 standings. Schumacher, who has yet to be confirmed for Haas, is leading the championship which wraps up this weekend in Bahrain with a doubleheader.

Haas officials have stressed over the past five seasons of the team’s existence that it desired to field at least one veteran driver on the team to aid in the development of the cars. That strategy has yet to produce so much as a single Formula 1 podium finish in five seasons. The team currently features 34-year-old Romain Grosjean and 28-year-old Kevin Magnussen. Both came to Haas with multiple years of Formula 1 experience, and each reached the podium with their former teams.

Haas has also shown no interest publicly in promoting its current reserve driver, Pietro Fittipaldi to full-time status for next year. Fittpaldi, 24, will make his first F1 start on Sunday in Bahrain in place of the injured Grosjean.

Haas is ninth place in the F1 Constructors’ Championship with a just three points in the standings—by far the lowest point total in the team’s brief history.

While Mazepin lacks the experience of Formula 1 available free agents Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, he undoubtedly brings money. His father is Russian billionaire businessman Dmitry Mazepin. Dmitry Mazepin earlier this year was rumored to be interested in purchasing Renault F1 or even the Haas team in Formula 1. Haas officials denied those reports in October.

“I’m delighted that Nikita Mazepin will be driving for Haas F1 Team next season,” said Guenther Steiner, team principal of Haas F1 Team. “Nikita has underlined his credentials in Formula 2 this year with a brace of victories and a handful of podiums in what’s been a strong sophomore season for him.

“He’s developed into a mature racer moving up through the junior ranks—notably most recently in the GP3 Series, where he finished runner-up in 2018, and obviously in Formula 2 over the past two seasons. I’m excited to see what Nikita can achieve in Formula 1 and we look forward to giving him the opportunity to compete at the highest level of world motorsport. With a record-setting 23 race schedule set for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, he’s going to get plenty of track action to learn all the nuances of Grand Prix racing.”

Mazepin graduated from karting into cars in 2015, competing in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC. He raced two seasons in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship before a move into the GP3 Series in 2018. Mazepin finished as runner-up in the GP3 in 2018 with four wins.

Mazepin has some Formula 1 test experience, as he was quickest in Barcelona’s second in-season test day in May 2019 driving for Mercedes.

“Becoming a Formula 1 driver is a lifelong dream come true for me,” said Nikita Mazepin. “I really appreciate the trust being put in me by Gene Haas, Guenther Steiner, and the whole of the team. They’re giving a young driver an opportunity and I thank them for that. I’m looking forward to starting our relationship together, both on and off the track, and I’m naturally keen to continue to demonstrate my abilities after a strong Formula 2 season. The team will be looking to me for feedback and inputs in order to refine its package for 2021 and beyond. I will take that responsibility on and can’t wait to get started.”

Money talks in Formula 1. Was this a money grab for Haas, or is Mazepin a better pick than say proven racers Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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