Haas 'educating' Mazepin, insist social media incident was taken 'seriously'

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Haas have defended their response to the social media controversy caused by new driver Nikita Mazepin last year.

Just days after being announced by the American team for 2021, Mazepin outraged fans after a video was posted showing him groping a female passenger's breast while travelling in Bahrain.

That led to immediate calls for Haas to fire the then-F2 driver, who has also been involved in numerous incidents both on and off the track in recent years.

Instead, Haas says the matter has been dealt with internally, and team boss Guenther Steiner insisted Mazepin had learnt his lesson.

"He did something he shouldn’t have done, and we were very outspoken about what we thought about it at the time," he wrote in his column for The Race.

"He’s apologised, he knows it was wrong, and now we need to work on it to give him the best opportunity to learn from this, concentrate on his racing and ensure he doesn’t do it anymore.

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"I’m not the type of guy who kicks in the face someone who’s on their knees – that’s not right.

"This is a young man who needs to grow up and for sure we have dealt with this and we will continue to deal with this.

"We are not saying that this was OK and letting him get away with it. We are educating him and will keep on educating him for his future."

Following up, however, the Haas chief also made it clear that Mazepin has had his one and only warning for such behaviour.

"There will be consequences if this or something similar happens again," Steiner added. "We have put things in place that will help him to get better and make sure this doesn’t happen again; not to make the same mistake again because this was a clear mistake.

"He took responsibility, which for me was very important. I always say if you know what you did wrong you can do better. If you are in denial, then it doesn’t work."

The lack of repercussions, at least publicly, for the incident hasn't sat well with fans with #WeSayNoToMazepin trending on Twitter on several occasions.

"People have an opinion, that’s fine, also internally people didn’t like what happened, and this is why we continue to take this seriously," Steiner said in response.

"This is a distraction that we don’t want, but sometimes these things happen. Of course, I would have rather this had not happened, but we got in this position and now we have to work on it, it’s part of our job."

Even before the social media controversy, Mazepin already had the stigma of being another 'pay driver' getting an F1 seat because of money rather than talent.

But the Haas chief defended the decision to sign the Russian, explaining: “At some stage, if you have a business you invest for a while and then you need to try to make it sustainable and a business, and that is part of it.

“We established Haas as a name in F1. It is a well-known team now and we are open to more commercial partners.

“Dmitry Mazepin has got a company, and if he comes together as a sponsor, then why not?

"If somebody is good and has got the financial backing, for sure, he has got a better chance than somebody who is equally good but has no financial backer," he conceded.

"Why would you choose that one with no financial backing?”