Steiner defends Mazepin pay-driver choice for Haas
Guenther Steiner defended Haas’ decision to recruit well-funded Nikita Mazepin for 2021, insisting F1 currently includes several talented drivers that bought their way in to the sport.
Mazepin is the 21-year-old son of Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, a core shareholder and chairman of fertilizer giant Uralchem, who has bankrolled his son’s path to the pinnacle of motorsport.
However, over the years, the young racer has made good use of his father’s lavish support, and so far in 2020 he has won two feature races and enjoyed multiple podiums in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, a series in which he sits third in the standings ahead of next weekend’s finale in Sakhir.
Steiner says Mazepin’s sporting credentials are real, but the Haas team boss also points out that talented pay-drivers are nothing new in F1, citing the stories of several drivers on the current grid as well as that of the late Niki Lauda.
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“There’s a lot of drivers who get into F1 thanks to financial backing,” said Steiner. “There are very good drivers in F1 who in the beginning brought a sponsor.
“The first one to call is Checo [Sergio Perez]. Checo came to F1 and it was, ‘He’s a pay driver.’ Look at Checo now, he finished on the podium, he’s doing a good job.
“George Russell for me is one of the best drivers, but without the help of Mercedes he wouldn’t be anywhere.
“There’s a lot of them there. Lance Stroll, he was on the podium. If they are good in F2, and they have a sponsor, that’s a perfect solution.”
Steiner also recalled how Niki Lauda had financially hustled his way on to the grid and later to a drive with BRM.
“When I spoke with Niki a long time ago he said, ‘I made it into F1 thanks to a bank which sponsored me, so I could go and buy a drive’.
“I think it was BRM at the time. And he was three-times world champion.”
Regardless of Mazepin’s level of backing, Steiner says the Russian’s results support the decision to promote him to the big time.
“I followed him the whole season, what he was doing,” he said. “For sure he had a difficult start, and without that difficult start, he would be fighting for the championship.
“So that is what I see, I can’t see any more than that. Results always talk.”
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