The Haas F1 team has let me down.
I’m an American and a Formula One fan, which isn’t very common from my experience, and the recent behavior by the only American F1 squad is deplorable. It was my hope that the formation of Haas F1 in 2014, by American tool industrialist Gene Haas, would lead to more domestic F1 fans in the U.S. and greater domestic appreciation of the sport.
Like many F1 fans I woke up this morning to the new Haas F1 livery and was shocked by it being a motorized Russian flag. I avoid getting on my soapbox about international politics, but I was aghast because of the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal stemming from the 2014 Winter Olympics that was held in Sochi, Russia.
As a result of doping scandal, Russian athletes were banned from world championship events for two-years. The ban was announced in December 2020 and also extends to individual Russian athletes who are not allowed to compete under their nation’s flag and national anthem. The Russian Automobile Federation confirmed with the FIA in February 2021 that the ban extends to drivers in all FIA driving series.
The new livery on the Haas VF-21 is based on their new sponsor, Uralkali. The Haas F1 sponsor is a Russian-based potash fertilizer producer owned by Dmitry Mazepin, who is the father of new Haas F1 driver, Nikita Mazepin.
“Obviously we cannot use the Russian flag as the Russian flag, but you can use colours on a car,” Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner said. “In the end, it’s the athlete which cannot display the Russian flag and not the team. The team is an American team.”
I can’t say it with any certainty, but it seems that Haas F1 is circumventing an international motorsports edict to appease their sponsor and their new driver. The ruling is based on a Russian state-sponsored cheating scandal in the Winter Olympics, and aren’t the Olympics based on honest competition between nations?
What Haas F1 has shown me is that they are OK with taking money to run their outfit regardless of the source. Unfortunately this isn’t the only recent instance involving Haas F1 where their ethics were largely suspect.
On November 30, 2020 Haas F1 signed Nikita Mazepin to drive for their squad and on December 9, 2020 Mazepin posted a video on Instagram of him inappropriately touching a woman as she attempted to resist. The video was removed from Instagram, and Haas F1 issued a statement on Twitter shortly afterwards:
Haas F1 Team does not condone the behavior of Nikita Mazepin in the video recently posted on his social media. Additionally, the very fact that the video was posted on social media is also abhorrent to Haas F1 Team. The matter is being dealt with internally and no further comment shall be made at this time. – Haas F1
Mazepin then issued an apology on Twitter and later deleted it:
“I would like to apologise for my recent actions both in terms of my own inappropriate behaviour and the fact that it was posted on social media. I am sorry for the offense I have rightly caused and to the embarrassment I have brought to Haas F1 Team. I have to hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula 1 driver and I acknowledge I have let myself and many people down. I promise I will learn from this.” – Nikita Mazepin
On December 23, 2020 Haas F1 issued a statement on Twitter:
“Haas F1 Team would like to reaffirm that Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher will form its driver lineup for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. As per the team’s previous statement regarding the actions of Nikita Mazepin (December 9) – this matter has now been dealt with internally and no further comment shall be made.”
It is reprehensible how Haas F1 handled the Mazepin situation. He apologized but it resonated as hollow in its message and the subsequent deletion shows that its intent was to placate but not ring wholeheartedly. Haas F1 is sending a message that truly terrible behavior is Ok with their franchise.
When Haas F1 was formed in 2014 I was excited and pretty optimistic due to Gene Haas’ previous success in NASCAR. I’m a longtime NASCAR reporter and well aware that Stewart-Haas Racing was one of the top teams in the Cup series with a pair of NASCAR Cup championships. Past is often prologue.
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I knew there would be growing pains in forming an F1 team from the ground up and that progress would be slow. They partnered with Ferrari and finished eighth in the Constructors’ Championship in their debut season. By 2018 they were fifth in the final standings but regressed to consecutive ninth places finishes in 2019 and 2020.
From afar they are on a downward spiral on the track and they’re ethics of running team are highly questionable. I can handle lackluster athletic performance if the heart is in the right place but some actions are truly deplorable.
You let us down, Haas F1. Please do the right thing and clean up your garage. We need you to do better than what you have shown us recently.