Haas announces F2 racer Mazepin as its first 2021 F1 driver

The Haas Formula 1 team has revealed that Nikita Mazepin will be one of its race drivers in 2021 after signing the FIA Formula 2 race winner on a multi-year deal

The Russian is expected to be partnered by Mick Schumacher, with a separate announcement to follow as soon as this week.

Mazepin currently lies third in the F2 standings with just this weekend's finale on Bahrain's outer circuit to come, having won feature races at Silverstone and Mugello in his second season in the category.

He will be the fourth Russian driver to race at the top level, after Vitaly Petrov, Daniil Kvyat and Sergey Sirotkin.

The 21-year-old has already undergone extensive preparation for his move to F1, having first tested for Force India at Silverstone as long ago as 2016.

He also logged mileage with the team in 2017 and 2018.

Since 2019 he has had an association with Mercedes and, while he has completed only one public test day in a current car with the Brackley outfit - at Barcelona in May last year - he has been running extensively in two-year-old models at various circuits around the world, including most recently Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

He has received coaching and assistance from Stoffel Vandoorne.

The switch from veterans Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen to two rookies represents a significant change of direction for Haas, and inevitably reflects the necessity to take drivers who come with commercial support.

"Nikita has underlined his credentials in F2 this year with a brace of victories and a handful of podiums in what's been a strong sophomore season for him," said team boss Guenther Steiner.

"He's developed into a mature racer moving up through the junior ranks - notably most recently in the GP3 Series, where he finished runner-up in 2018, and obviously in F2 over the past two seasons.

"I'm excited to see what Nikita can achieve in F1 and we look forward to giving him the opportunity to compete at the highest level of world motorsport.

"With a record-setting 23-race schedule set for the 2021 FIA F1 World Championship, he's going to get plenty of track action to learn all the nuances of grand prix racing."

Mazepin added: "Becoming a F1 driver is a lifelong dream come true for me.

"I really appreciate the trust being put in me by Gene Haas, Guenther Steiner, and the whole of the team.

"They're giving a young driver an opportunity and I thank them for that.

"I'm looking forward to starting our relationship together, both on and off the track, and I'm naturally keen to continue to demonstrate my abilities after a strong F2 season.

"The team will be looking to me for feedback and inputs in order to refine its package for 2021 and beyond.

"I will take that responsibility on and can't wait to get started."

Speaking at last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, team boss Steiner insisted that 2021 is a good time to introduce rookies, given the rule changes that come in 2022.

"If we bring in rookies - if - I think next year is a good time to bring in rookies," he said. "Because next year the car will not be developed a lot.

"There's a freeze on the car, a homologation of the car, so you cannot make big changes.

"Obviously we can make aero changes, but the car will not change in terms of fundamentals. So it's a development, and not a new development.

"And next year our focus will be on the '22 car anyway, so I think it's a transition year.

"I think it will be a good year for rookies to come in, to learn about being in F1 to start off with, getting to know the people around, getting to know how to go to press conferences, and things like this."

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