Nikita Mazepin says he feels ready to make his Formula 1 debut with Haas in 2021 as he believes faster cars suit his style of driving.
Mazepin said the deal for him to race for Haas next year was only finalised recently. “I feel ready for Formula 1,” he said. “I had quite a few seasons in single seaters now and I believe that faster cars do suit my driving style.”
He has won twice with new team Hitech in Formula 2 this year, but was relegated to second place in the Spa feature after finishing first on the road for forcing Yuki Tsunoda off the track.
“It’s been quite a challenging year,” said Mazepin. “When I went to race with Hitech Grand Prix, they haven’t existed in Formula 2 previously. Although it’s only 12 people everybody needed to blend in with each other and it was a big task.
“But I think the team’s handled it fantastically. For us to be able to do reasonably fast pit stops, make [fewer] mistakes than some teams do with starting set-ups, et cetera, I think it’s an achievement that’s worth noticing. Especially given a few penalties I’ve had this year that I perhaps haven’t agreed with. I think the overall championship table is looking promising.”
Mazepin did not reveal whether he had been in discussions with any other teams about a move into Formula 1.
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“I’m not really able to comment on that,” he said. “I’ve been focussed on my F2 career because I knew that the result is what is going to help me achieve this goal. I’m lucky to say that I have a strong management team behind me and they’ve taken care of it.”
However Mazepin said that doesn’t mean he can look upon next season as an opportunity to introduce himself to the sport gradually with minimal pressure.
“When you’re getting to F1 there’s almost one shot at it, I believe,” he said. “It’s never been a consideration of how that would be for me.
“I had this opportunity come up, we’ve decided to take it on and regardless of what Mr Guenther has said I would say that my job is to out-perform my team mate, as always, and do the best I can. So the pressure is still there on my shoulders. I believe I’m ready for F1 and I want to show it to the team, first of all.”
“I think most of the teams have decided to put their focus on ’22 based on the budget limitation and planning,” he added.
Haas lie ninth in the constructors championship with two races remaining. Steiner admitted last week the team came close to folding earlier in the season due to the financial pressures arising from the pandemic.
Mazepin said he isn’t concerned about the team’s recent decline in form. “I’m very much looking forward to it because graduating to F1 is obviously going to be exciting regardless of how the car is performing. And I think at this stage in my career now, being a young driver, it’s irrelevant to speak of [whether] the car is good or not.
“I’m obviously aware that the team had a difficult year. However, my focus is on getting ready to F1. The car is very different to what I’m used to and the calendar’s going to be almost double of what I’m used to. So it’s the challenges that are ahead of me that’s my focus for now.”
Haas is yet to announce who Mazepin’s team mate will be, though his Formula 2 rival Mick Schumacher is favourite to take the seat. Mazepin said his target in his first year is to prove he can perform as an F1 driver given the equipment he has.
“I’m expecting to do well in regards to potential performance in the speed of the car that I’ll be racing at,” he said. “I believe that me and my team mate should be close within the lap times.”
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