Before the summer break, Nikita Mazepin lamented the fact that his Haas was heavier than his teammate’s car, at Spa-Francorchamps last month the Russian rookie received his lighter chassis, which he claims feel a whole lot better.
With Haas anchored to the back of the Formula 1 grid with a woefully uncompetitive car, their two rookie drivers Mick Schumacher and Mazepin have only themselves as a yardstick. There have been numerous on track argy-bargy moments as the pair flex their muscles.
But Mazepin revealed in the first half of the season that he had the heavier car in the garage, but team boss Guenther Steiner took the comments with a pinch of salt but did promise a lighter car for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Mazepin told Motorsport Network: “I think our one-lap pace has massively improved ever since I drive from FP1 in Belgium. I think we all know what was the change. So it’s good to know that I can trust my feelings.”
Which was the 22-year-old’s way of saying I told you so.
However, the proof of his ‘improvement’ has not been evident on the timing screens. At Monza, he finished ahead of teammate Schumacher, 17th and 19th respectively but in qualifying was half a second shy. As he was at Monza, at Spa-Francorchamps, the Russian was a tenth down on the German in the wet.
Rewind to Hungary and no qualy comparison is possible because Schumacher did not do a lap, but at the British Grand Prix with the heavier chassis Mazepin was three tenths off his teammate, in Austria Part I he was a tenth shy and Austria II he was a tenth off.
But Mazepin appears convinced he has a better car for the remainder of the season: “The good thing is that the pace is here now, and we have a long season ahead of us.
“So I’m sure that it’s only going to get better, because the confidence that I have lost in the beginning of the year, when the car wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do, now it’s coming to the truth.”
As for Steiner’s denying the claim that the heavier car handicapped him, Mazepin said: “Going into school physics, the more weight you have going with you in the corner, the more downforce you need to carry the same speed.
“Obviously, we have only so much downforce that we use in this team, and the more weight you have in the corner, the more sliding you have. So the less weight from the car, the more speed I can carry with being in the same position as my teammate.”
“You can speak all you want, but I think I’ve definitely taken an all of a sudden step in a better direction. And, to me, it’s very clear. I’ve been fighting for an equal position to be in for quite long and I’m very happy to be in it.
“But as a rookie driver in Formula 1, you know, fighting with superstars, who’ve been here for a long time, I still need to improve in a lot of areas,” admitted the Haas driver.
Mazepin’s performances (good or bad) are unlikely to have consequences as his billionaire father Dmitry bankrolls his dream with Uralkali backing the Haas team for the privilege. Mazepin Senior is deputy chairman on the board of the Russian company which is one of the biggest producers of potash in the world.
Expect Junior to stay with Haas, his father may even buy ot from Gene Haas… who knows?