Nikita Mazepin: Fired Russian F1 driver announces fund to help other excluded athletes




Reuters

Russian driver Nikita Mazepin on Wednesday hit back at US Formula One team Haas for sacking him after his country invaded Ukraine and announced the creation of a foundation to support athletes unable to compete in because of war or politics.

The 23-year-old told reporters in a video call from Moscow that the “We Compete as One” foundation would be funded by money donated by Uralkali, the Russian potash company owned by his billionaire father Dmitry, to Haas.

Uralkali said separately that he had already paid most of the now-completed 2022 title sponsorship to Haas and would seek an immediate refund while reserving the right to seek damages.

No financial details were available and team title sponsorship contracts are confidential.

Mazepin said there had been no contact with his former bosses or former teammate Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time world champion Michael.

“In situations like this you can see the real face of everyone around you,” said the Russian, who had several tense moments with his teammate last year after being outclassed by the German.

Others, including Mercedes’ George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, had sent “very simple” personal messages of support, he added.

“They know how important sport is to them, to their lives. They helped me feel for myself that I lost this opportunity to compete,” Mazepin said. “Nothing political. Just personal, keep your head up.

“It was exactly what I believe a good human being should do.”

He spoke neither of war nor of politics.

Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, said Russian and Belarusian drivers could still compete in a neutral capacity.

Mazepin said he intended to do so, citing the example of tennis player Daniil Medvedev who was allowed to continue playing, but not under the Russian flag.

He said he has not given up on his dreams of competing in Formula 1, that he will remain in racing condition ready for any opportunity and that he has no intention of seeking a license from another country.

The foundation, whose name echoes F1’s “We Race as One” initiative to promote diversity and equal rights, would start by helping Russian Paralympic athletes sent home after the Beijing Games, a- he added.

“The foundation will allocate resources…to athletes who have spent their lives preparing for the Olympics or Paralympics or other high profile events only to find they were banned from competing and collectively punished just because of the passports they ‘they held,’ he said.

Mazepin, who would have been Russia’s only F1 driver this year and whose career was funded by his father, said the foundation plans to help athletes from all conflict zones.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has drawn sanctions in world sport, and Belarus, a key staging area for the full-scale invasion, has also been punished.


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