Mazepin is confidently the last, but is it a failure? The results of the first part of the F1 season for the Russian
Half of the first season of Nikita Mazepin in Formula 1 ended unsuccessfully. This cannot be called a failure – even the team itself did not expect to add this season, saving money on the revision of the chassis that had failed back in 2020. Nevertheless, the result of the first 11 races is disappointing: nine defeats from a team-mate – the same debutant – in qualifications and a confident last place in the standings.
We figure out what went wrong and what happened with the Russian pilot.
The season for Mazepin began with several sorties in Bahrain – the first race of the Russian ended already in the first corners. This inevitably hit the debutant’s confidence, and at the second stage Nikita was first of all required to finish – in the difficult conditions of the drying track Mazepin finished the race, but lost more than a minute to his partner, and this was only in the last 30 laps.
In Portimão, Nikita was much more confident: he was ahead of Schumacher at the restart after the departure of Raikkonen. True, he missed a counterattack around the same place, but the entire first segment went at the pace of his partner. At the finish, Mazepin again lost a minute to his partner, but only because of an additional pit stop in the middle of the distance. In Barcelona, the situation repeated itself: at the beginning of the race, the Russian kept the pace of Schumacher, and after the pit stop, when he had to miss the leaders, he began to lag behind him.
Nikita Mazepin at the Monaco Grand Prix
But there was a turning point in Monaco. Nikita all weekend looked more confident than Mika, who crashed the car before qualifying, and for the first time this season started ahead of his team-mate. On the first lap, however, Mazepin missed an unexpected attack by Schumacher in a hairpin, and then was able to get ahead of him only because of problems with the German’s engine, nevertheless, this was the first stage in which the Russian, if not much stronger, then at least was not inferior to his teammate.
The reason for the dramatic changes is the new chassis. Mazepin started the season with a new car, and the car tested in Barcelona in winter was given to Schumacher. In Bahrain, Nikita did not manage to get along with the new chassis, and only after four stages, the Russian was able to convince the team to try to assemble a new car – and immediately drove on it much more confidently.
After a strong performance in Monaco, it seemed that Mazepin was about to start fighting with his partner on equal terms. And in Baku, two “Haas” almost collided at the finish line, but only due to the fact that Nikita was ahead of Schumacher at the restart, and before that the Russian made a mistake in one of the turns and was 40 seconds behind. In Le Castellet, Mazepin was ahead of his partner in the fourth lap, but Mick bounced back at pit stops and created a confident reserve, leaving no chance for a counterattack.
The situation developed in the same way at the Styrian Grand Prix: Mazepin lost to Schumacher in qualifying, but was ahead of his team-mate at the start, and after the pit stops he was again under attack. Mick, who was not inferior in pace to the Russian, changed tires later and easily overtook with fresh tires, and at the finish line the Haas drivers were separated by 40 seconds. The Austrian Grand Prix was even worse: Mazepin never beat Schumacher in the course of the distance, and lost more than 50 seconds under the checkered flag.
Nikita Mazepin at the Austrian Grand Prix
And in Spielberg Mazepin admitted that his car – the one that the racer got only at the Monaco Grand Prix – is several kilograms heavier than Schumacher’s car. “It greatly affects weight distribution and tuning,” the Russian said. “If there are a lot of straights on the track and your car is heavier, it is very difficult to stay ahead.” “Yes, it really is, – confirmed the words of the rider team leader Gunther Steiner. – But we are not talking about twenty kilograms. There are not even ten, it does not affect his speed too much. “
And in principle, Steiner is right – the extra weight in itself does not explain the half-second loss to his teammate in the second qualification at the Red Bull Ring. At the same time, extra pounds do not help in finding the optimal settings and do not give confidence. And, of course, one or the other tenth of a second gives additional mass: the partner’s car initially, though a little, but better – if this word is in principle applicable to the Haas chassis.
Victory at Silverstone
All the more surprising is Mazepin’s victory over Schumacher at Silverstone. Nikita’s weekend began with an unpleasant departure at the very beginning of the short race, but on Sunday the Russian turned out to be much stronger than his team-mate. Mazepin attacked after a pit stop, ahead of Schumacher on the outer trajectory in Vale, and left Mika no chance to counterattack. If you remember the problems of the German with the power plant in Monaco, it was the British Grand Prix that became the first real victory of the Russian over his partner.
Alas, in the recent Hungarian Grand Prix Nikita could not shine – Kimi Raikkonen, who carelessly drove out of the Alfa Romeo boxes, broke the Russian’s front suspension. Nevertheless, this weekend Mazepin chalked up a second victory over Mick in qualifying – Schumacher, as in Monaco, crashed a car in Saturday’s training session.
Mazepin overtakes Schumacher at Silverstone
The strong ending of the first half of the season shows that Mazepin is on the right track and is gradually improving. In the first races, it was difficult for the debutant to find a common language with a capricious car – earlier the Russian tested much more obedient Mercedes cars. Now it is easier for Nikita to attack on one fast circle, he is more stable on long segments.
But even despite this, the Russian is still one step, or even two behind Mika – in the intra-team rivalry, Schumacher leads 9-2. To get ahead of his partner by the end of the season, Mazepin needs to smash him for the entire second half of the season – this is unlikely. But even if in the remaining races the Haas pilots will constantly fight on equal terms and at least half of the time Nikita will be ahead, this will be a worthy end to the debut championship.
With an eye on the season-2022
The first thing that catches the eye so far is Mazepin’s lag in qualifications: even if we exclude the two sessions in which the Russian lost the most to Miku (to counterbalance the German’s two passes) – Bahrain and Spain, Nikita is on average 0.48% behind. In the Spa, it will take almost half a second.
On long stretches, the Russian at times looks no worse than his partner – if he does not lose sight of him or is not forced to constantly leave the trajectory, allowing the leaders to enter the circle. In wheel-to-wheel wrestling, Mazepin still looks more confident than Mick, but he is less likely than a German to be next to Williams or Alfa Romeo to fight – again because of problems in qualification.
In addition, Mazepin, despite his numerous flights in Bahrain, now makes mistakes less often than Schumacher and does not hit cars. At times, Nikita also makes mistakes, but recently he has been able to avoid them at key moments. True, the Russian cannot boast of reaching the second segment.
Mazepin and Schumacher before the British Grand Prix
One way or another, the 2021 season is a transitional one for the whole team, and the main task of Mazepin and Schumacher is to gain experience so that next year, when completely different cars will be on the starting grid, be fully armed.