Nikita Mazepin will embark on his rookie Formula 1 season in 2021 with the Uralkali Haas F1 Team, and the Russian says it has not yet sunk in that he will be starting his first race this weekend.
Mazepin has stepped up to Formula 1 after a strong campaign in FIA Formula 2 and will make his race debut with Haas at the Bahrain International Circuit this Sunday.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Mazepin. “Obviously, I’m aware it’s just literally a few days away now until the lights go out and the first race is underway.
“It’s pretty surreal because the waiting time has been very long. Hopefully everything will go smoothly, and I believe that I’m ready, so I’ve got nothing to be hesitant about.”
Mazepin says it has been a ‘great pleasure’ to start working for Haas across the winter months, even with the coronavirus pandemic still causing issues, particularly when it comes to travel.
“It’s been a great pleasure to be part of the team, especially in these difficult times when Covid restrictions don’t allow you to be present with them face-to-face all the time,” said the Russian, who will race under a neutral flag this year due to a ban on Russian athletes competing in international competitions by the World Anti-Doping Agency due to doping offences in his homeland.
“We started the year working together using virtual platforms and then obviously I was able to get to England and meet everyone. I was extremely surprised at how high the motivation is in the team despite knowing that we’re going into a very difficult year.
“Everyone’s putting in the most effort they can.”
“At this exact time, I’m so hungry for racing, and to just get started”
Mazepin is looking forward to what is set to be the longest and busiest season in Formula 1 history, with twenty-three races to be held between Bahrain in March and Abu Dhabi in mid-December. He does not have any races he is looking forward to any more than any other, with the twenty-two-year-old just eager to get racing.
“I’m aware that the intensity is very high, it’s the busiest schedule that there’s ever been planned in Formula 1,” he said. “I’m aware it’s going to be very difficult to keep the focus and keep in good shape throughout the whole year.
“But at this exact time, I’m so hungry for racing, and to just get started – nothing else is in my head apart from those positive thoughts.”
The Russian will be sharing the grid with four Formula 1 World Champions in 2021 – Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen, and he says it is ‘surreal’ for him to be on the grid with legends like that.
“To be with these big names in Formula 1, to be sharing the same starting grid, is very humbling and very surreal,” added Mazepin. “I’ve watched these guys race on TV and I’ve looked up to their achievements since I was very young.
“I’m a big fan of the sport itself, every Sunday I used to sit down in front of the TV and watch it. To be together with them is humbling, and hopefully racing with the best I can also learn as much as possible.”