Embroiled in controversy created by an Instagram video post on the page of their new driver Nikita Mazepin, race principal Guenther Steiner addressed the steps taken by the team in a editorial at The-Race.com.
The video posted early December depicted what appeared to be sexual harassment and was removed from his Instagram page. It showed a woman riding in the back seat of a car being groped in the chest area by someone reaching from the front passenger seat.
The woman was identified as model Andrea D’lVal, and she released a statement that read: “Hi guys, I just want to let you know Nikita and I have been good friends for a long time and nothing from that video was serious at all!
“We trust each other so much and this was a silly way of joking between us. I posted this video on his story as an internal joke. I am truly sorry. I can give you my word he’s really a good person and he would never do anything to hurt or humiliate me.”
But one month later, criticism continues to swirl. And it is a distraction the team would prefer not to have as they attempt to move up a highly competitive grid. In 2020 Haas F1 finished ninth among 10 constructors, earning just three points for the season. Only Williams F1 was worse.
“[Nikita] did something he shouldn’t have done, and we were very outspoken about what we thought about it at the time. He’s apologized and he knows it was wrong, and now we need to work on it to give him the best opportunity to learn from this, concentrate on his racing and ensure he doesn’t do it anymore.”
Soon after reports of the video circulated, Haas Formula 1 condemned the action as abhorrent, but did not go as far as removing the driver.
Their opinion has not changed. In his editorial, Steiner stated that young drivers need support and guidance in order to mature not only as racers, but as adults.
Steiner says the team is taking internal measures to ensure the behavior they characterize as a mistake is not repeated, while refusing to disclose precisely what those measures are. He and the team is also aware of the response on social media and that is taken seriously.
“This is not done and dusted, this is an ongoing thing, we are not moving on like nothing ever happened,” he said.
At the time of his signing with Haas Formula 1, Mazepin was third in the Formula 2 standings behind his new teammate Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott.
“I’m delighted that Nikita Mazepin will be driving for Haas F1 Team next season,” Steiner said. “Nikita has underlined his credentials in Formula 2 this year with a brace of victories and a handful of podiums in what’s been a strong sophomore season for him.
“I’m excited to see what Nikita can achieve in Formula 1 and we look forward to giving him the opportunity to compete at the highest level of world motorsport.”
Notably, Steiner also commented on the need to help fellow freshman Schumacher improve, but the focus of his statement was on Schumacher’s racing knowledge instead of personal issues.
“The guys like him and his feedback and he has no problem to admit the things where he needs to get better,” Steiner said at The-Race.com. “That is what we need to do – make him go better – because everything is new; he’s been put in a difficult position because his teammate is another rookie, but he knew that from the get go.”