F1 Today – Sakhir Test Prixview – 09/03/2022

F1 Today

Mazepin has no “trust” in Haas

Nikita Mazepin says his dismissal by Haas left him with no “trust” in the team. The US-owned team Haas had been under immense pressure to act on Russian driver Mazepin’s future following his country’s invasion of Ukraine, with sport around the world cutting ties with Russia.

Mazepin says he was never given the opportunity to prove he was able to compete under a neutral flag, as long as they officially agreed to the organisation’s principles of peace and neutrality, but Mazepin says he was sacked before he had the chance to do so.

Speaking from Moscow for the first time since his dismissal, Mazepin said: “I was ready to agree with this and consider myself neutral. When they added an additional letter which I had to sign, I did not look at it because my contract had already been terminated.”

Mazepin also says he found out his contract was terminated through a press release, and did not rule out taking legal action against Haas. He says “There was no legal reason that could enable the team to terminate my contract.

“I was very disappointed with the way it was handled. I was told if the FIA allowed me to compete on their rules, and I agreed to them, there would be no actions to remove me from the seat.”

Mazepin says he was not ready for it and didn’t get a hint, any support and was told at the same time as everyone else. He says that he has lost something he had been working towards for eighteen years, so soon. However, added “I absolutely do not see Formula One as a closed chapter. I am going to stay in race condition and I will be ready to take on an opportunity if it comes.”

 

Mazepin’s added to EU sanctions

Former driver Nikita Mazepin and his father Dmitry have both been added to a list of high-profile Russians subject to European Union sanctions. The latest additions were published by the Council of the European Union on Wednesday.

The news came shortly after Mazepin had told the media that neither he nor his father was subject to sanctions, and thus that couldn’t be used as an reason for the Haas F1  team to cancel both his contract and that of his sponsor Uralkali.

 

Magnussen returns to Haas

Kevin Magnussen will return to Haas to replace Nikita Mazepin after the team decided he could not continue with the team following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While experienced drivers like Antonio Giovinazzi and Nico Hulkenberg were strongly linked with the seat, Haas has elected to go back to former racer Magnussen to be teammate to Mick Schumacher.

Its understood the team wanted to have an experienced driver alongside Schumacher, with the Dane racing for the team between 2017 and 2020.

 

Haas to miss an opening morning of test

Haas will miss the first morning of the Sakhir Test on Thursday after its freight arrived late in Bahrain. The teams freight was meant to arrive in Sakhir on Monday, however, the plane  set to transport that equipment was delayed in Istanbul with technical issues.

While it has now arrived in Bahrain, teams need about two days d for put freight together before it can hit the track, meaning Haas’ schedule is too tight to get out when the first sessions starts on Thursday morning.

Haas reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will be at the wheel for Thursday’s session if Haas does make it out on track, although the team is yet to confirm the long-term replacement for Nikita Mazepin.

 

Uralkali to launch legal action against Haas

Uralkali is set to begin legal proceedings against the Haas Formula 1 team to reclaim its sponsorship payments after the team terminated its contract in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In response, during the Barcelona test the team suspended the sponsorship deal with the team announcing a review of its links with the Russian potash company. Then they decided to completely cut ties with the brand and driver Nikita Mazepin, son of company boss Dmitry Mazepin.

Uralkali has released a statement in reaction to the termination of its contract with Haas and will aim to claim back its full 2022 sponsorship funding from the team. If successful, Uralkali states it will use sponsorship money to establish a “We Compete As One athlete support foundation”, but it remains unclear how that money will be used and who it would be delivered to.

“Uralkali intends to protect its interests in line with applicable legal procedures and reserves its rights to initiate judicial proceedings, claim damages and seek repayment of the significant amounts Uralkali had paid for the 2022 Formula 1 season,” the Uralkali statement read.

“As most of the sponsorship funding for the 2022 season has already been transferred to Haas and given that the team terminated the sponsorship agreement before the first race of the 2022 season, Haas has thus failed to perform its obligations to Uralkali for this year’s season. Uralkali shall request the immediate reimbursement of the amounts received by Haas.”

Uralkali described the decision to end the sponsorship as “unreasonable” and that F1 “should always be free of politics and pressure from external factors”.

Haas is set to miss the start of the Bahrain F1 test, which begins tomorrow, after the late arrival of its team freight when a transporter plane that was meant to be shipping it got delayed in Istanbul airport.

Pietro Fittipaldi will replace Mazepin for the Bahrain test, but the team has yet to decide who will take the second race seat alongside Mick Schumacher.

 

Looking ahead to testing

Tomorrow sees the start of the second test in Sakhir with the next three days should give a clearer picture of where the teams stand. Many teams are expected to bring upgrades and over the course of a season a lot can change answers should be clearer over the next three days.

All of the teams will be bringing updates from the cars they ran in Barcelona over the six days of track running ahead of the Grand Prix. That is a  significant period in F1 winter development terms, and teams will have planned many months ago to have some parts built and ready for track use only for the second test, and not the first.

Some teams would have hidden and not brought the full package to Barcelona, although it is believed that Red Bull and Mercedes are still the favourites. That makes the question how much are the teams holding back and can they make a big step in Sakhir.

George Russell said, “I think we’ll see some changes come Bahrain, and throughout the season I’m sure the development slope is going to be pretty rapid for everyone. Whoever can get on top of that the quickest and most efficiently will be the ones on top come the end of the season.”

That asks three questions, how much sandbagging was going on in Barcelona? How quickly and effectively can the teams get on top of any new parts?

Ferrari looked to have a strong base in Barcelona, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz effortless managed to be quick. Leclerc was consistency fifth, however the team didn’t do a lot off running on the softest tyres. However, crucially the car did a lot of laps, and thus plenty of data was gathered.

Team principal Mattia Binotto said “Now that correlation will be an exercise of the next days back in Maranello. We will really try to cross correlate all the data. And let’s see if it’s working well. But the car is behaving well, overall.”

The consensus of those who crunched the numbers is that the team’s pace was genuine relative to its main rivals. The question now is how the F1-75 stacks up in Bahrain alongside the Mercedes and Red Bull, both of which will now be much closer to the spec they will use at the first race.

Alpine could be a team to watch, they had a hampered first test in Barcelona finishing eighth in the table and the drivers missed out on the opportunity to run lower fuel and softer tyres on the final day. A time set very early on Friday by Alonso on the C3 tyre benchmarked the team as eighth fastest, ahead only of Haas and Alfa Romeo.

It was also a difficult test for Alfa Romeo, with the car having a number of mechanical gremlins. Reserve driver Robert Kubica managed only nine laps in his only session on the morning of day one, and then Valtteri Bottas ran only 23 laps that afternoon.

By the end of the test the car had logged 175 laps, with only Haas completing fewer. It was not good news for rookie driver Guanyu Zhou, who obviously really needs some mileage.

Fred Vasseur acknowledged that Barcelona hadn’t been easy: “It was quite a difficult session. Now we have to think and to be focused on the next one. But we are trying to fix everything for Bahrain, and we can recover and look on the future.”

Tyres weren’t a topic really talked about in testing, but the expectation is that with more reprehensive conditions in Bahrain, they could become more of an issue. Given the engineering challenges involved in the switch, it was perhaps surprising that the new Pirellis were little talked about, and conversations were dominated instead by the huge changes to the aero packages and the porpoising effect that teams experienced.

For the upcoming Grand Prix, Pirelli has taken a conservative route and chosen its three hardest compounds, the C1, C2, C3, having used the C2, C3 and C4 with its previous generation of tyres in 2021.

Porpoising was the main issue in Barcelona, teams have had a fortnight now to understand the issue so it will be interesting to see if the teams are able to managing the issues.

 

Gasly believes he has one more change with Red Bull

Pierre Gasly thinks he has one final chance to get himself back in a Red Bull. The Frenchman’s current contract with sister team Alpha Tauri ends at the end of 2023, meaning he faces extending his contract or looking elsewhere for a seat.

He has made no secret of his desire to get back to Red Bull, having been dropped by the team midway through the 2019 campaign after struggling with the RB15 and facing extreme pressure as Max Verstappen’s teammate.

Following his switch across to AlphaTauri, he has excelled, and his highlight has been his shock victory at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. As he enters his mid twenties Gasly is mindful that he cannot wait for Red Bull forever if he wants to be fighting for championships.

Speaking to Motorsport.com about potentially needing to look elsewhere, he said his next contract from 2024 was critical. He said, “Helmut [Marko] said it and it’s not confidential anymore that I have one more year after this year on my contract. And that’s obviously [the moment that] either we make it with Red Bull or either we don’t.”

“What’s going to happen after that, at the moment it’s way too early to speak about it. I’m focused on doing my best right now. But obviously I want to be in a fast car to fight for wins and victories and that’s the only thing that matters. I want to win in Formula 1 and I’ve got to have a car which allows me to win.”

Gasly says he will says despite there being much for him to prove, he didn’t feel there was any extra pressure on him to deliver immediate results. Saying he just needs to keep up what he has been doing in recent years, moving the team forwards.

Looking ahead to the new season his excited by the situation, hoping that they have a fast car and that is the thing that matters. Saying that Alpha Tauri is in a good position with its car and engine package to take advantage of other opportunities because of the extra opportunities

Adding “The way we work is efficient, we’ve proved it last year. So we are confident about that. Then about the car, I must say at the moment we have a lot of question marks because it’s a complete brand new car. We started from scratch basically.”

 

The Test Ahead

The final three days of testing ahead of the opening race next weekend gives the teams a chance to try and get on top of the gremlins going into next week’s opening race. It’s the first time the majority of us will get to see the cars on track, I think this is an opportunity to understand the porpoising issue and how these cars work as that is the thing we all are learning.

The main news story I think will be the fallout from Nikita Mazepin being dropped, Haas in recent years you need to think have been caught up in so many scandal’s, I think it likely in the next few days we will hear about the future of the second seat. Many teams are likely to bring updates so it might give us a better idea of the pecking order going into next weekend.

The stand out thing from the first test was how little the order has been shaken up, you need to expect unless someone pulls something out the bag it will still be Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull leading when you dig into the data. We will learn a lot from us all as we don’t now a lot about these cars yet.

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.