Nikita Mazepin feels ready to fight amongst the midfield pack in 2022 after an often-frustrating 2021 Formula 1 season left him floundering at the back of the pack without any real chance of scoring points.
The Uralkali Haas F1 Team driver was one of only two full-time drivers not to break into the top ten last year, with the other being team-mate Mick Schumacher.
But Haas put all their focus into the development of their 2022 challenger rather than any effort into the 2021 machine, meaning Mazepin was always destined for struggles.
But despite this, he enjoyed a few good on-track battles during the year, and he hopes for more on a more frequent basis this year, should his team give him the car to do so.
“Of course I am. I feel 100% ready,” Mazepin is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “I had a few good battles this year with some faster cars and I felt comfortable. For me, mainly fighting with people, I need to know exactly where my rear wing ends and where the front wing ends, so I know exactly how to position my car next to them.
“I feel like I have that confidence. I remember it was very scary in the first race in Bahrain because the cars are very long and wide. But now I’m in a good place, so driving a more balanced car and more predictable car should make it easier and more enjoyable.
“Ultimately for me, when I turn up to a racetrack, it’s about going through that purpose of myself and going through racing and actually feeling like you can influence the result. But [in 2021] even if it is a good weekend finishing in front of my team-mate, P19, it is a bit difficult to really go home satisfied.”
Mazepin was asked what the biggest lesson he learned in 2021 was, he said he needed to break it down into smaller pieces in order to make progress, and he hopes 2022 will be a much more consistent year both for driver and team.
“I think overall it [the season] was positive,” Mazepin said. “We made huge steps forward in my confidence and in my understanding from the point where we started.
“I’ve had very good races in the beginning of the year, then some difficult ones and then some good ones as well and some difficult ones. So you know, life in F1 isn’t consistent to anyone.
“But we always knew what we were going into, and ’22 is the year when we put things together. And I think I’m in a good place to do exactly that.”