Gene Haas says the external pressure and criticism was too much for his Haas F1 Team to keep Nikita Mazepin and major sponsors Uralkali in the team for the 2022 Formula 1 season on the back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Many sanctions have been put in place on Russia following the invasion, including the removal of the Russian Grand Prix from the calendar, while drivers were prohibited from running under their national flag as part of the FIA’s quickly sanctioned regulations.
However, Uralkali’s Dmitri Mazepin’s close relationship with the Russian President saw the team come under fire, with criticism coming from many angles as they sought to get the team to sever ties with their Russian driver and Russian sponsor.
Haas, the Founder of the team that made its Formula 1 debut in 2016, says the criticism was getting ‘overwhelming’ and it was difficult for the team and its sponsors to deal with, and it meant a split with both driver and sponsor was inevitable.
“There was a lot of intense criticism about the Ukrainian invasion, and it was just getting overwhelming,” Haas is quoted as saying to Associated Press. “We can’t deal with all that, our other sponsors can’t deal with all that.”
Haas remains confident that the founds are in place ahead of the 2022 season despite the loss of Uralkali and its Russian funding, although the financial hit they have taken will make it a more challenging year than anticipated.
“Haas has always been the major, primary sponsor, I don’t know why people said it became a Russian team. Haas Automation was always on the car,” Haas added.
“We’re good. We’re fine. We’d like more money, of course, but we’re fine. This just gives us a bigger negative number.”