Mazepin accepts backlash to Bahrain video, hopes to change minds on the track

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Nikita Mazepin understands and fully accepts the backlash he's received over a controversial video posted on social media last year.

Mere days after being announced as a Haas driver in Formula 1 for 2021, the Russian was filmed touching a female inappropriately while riding in a car in Bahrain.

Haas and F1 were quick to rebuke Mazepin's actions, but the #WeSayNoToMazepin hashtag instantly went viral and negative comments continue to dominant social media on every post linked to the 22-year-old.

“First of all it’s very important to say that my actions in December about the whole incident were incorrect,” he said in his first comments on the matter via ESPN.

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“I do take full responsibility for it. It was a very big learning experience and I can confidently say that I’m much further in my knowledge on this kind of matter than I used to be, so there’s a small bit of positivity there.”

On the criticism, he added: “I totally understand they are correct in their feelings and that I was not correct with my actions.

“I’m not proud of it. It’s important to progress.”

Mazepin was already a controversial choice for Haas as his selection was as much a commercial one as it was based on talent, if not more so.

Also, a number of previous incidents on the track and off meant Nikita wasn't exactly the most liked driver anyway.

Even so, he hopes his performances with Haas can help improve opinions from their currently very low level. 

"The people who are with me over the past 21 years know who I am,” he said. “It's very difficult to be fake for people and I'm far from that.

"I will be myself outside of the track like I've always been. I've had my ups and my lows, but that's part of life. I think the racing should do the speaking, mostly.

"I believe I'm a very good racer, I believe I'm a fast racer. I'm actually looking forward to the challenge of showing people who might not like me at the moment that I have great racing skills, that hopefully changes the perception of me."