By Shwetha Surendran
BU News Service
On Nov. 30, Haas F1 Team announced 21-year-old Nikita Mazepin as part of their driver line-up for 2021. But the American outfit and driver have already found themselves embroiled in controversy after Mazepin posted a video to his Instagram story which the team, according to a Wednesday statement, found “abhorrent.”
In the video, Mazepin appears to inappropriately touch a woman in the backseat of a car. The woman, while trying to move his hand away, raises her middle finger to the camera. A blurred out version of the now-deleted Instagram story found its way to YouTube and had racked up almost 50,000 views by Wednesday afternoon.
“I would like to apologise for my recent actions, both in terms of my own behaviour and that fact that it was posted onto social media,” read the apology note on Mazepin’s social media accounts. “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.”
The woman in the video also took to Instagram to defend the driver, and to take responsibility for posting the video on his story. She said they were long-time friends and it was an “internal joke.”
While the repercussions to his actions remain to be seen, this is not the first time Mazepin has found himself in hot water. In a previous incident, he punched British driver Callum Ilott, who was left with a swollen jaw. More recently, he was penalized twice for aggressive defending in a race.
In a joint statement released earlier today, the FIA and Formula One supported and backed Haas in its decision to deal with the matter internally.
The Russian is set to partner with Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time Formula One world champion, Michael Schumacher, at Haas in 2021.