Haas F1 Drivers Mazepin, Schumacher Making the Most of 'Terrible Car'

·2 min read
Photo credit: Joe Portlock - Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Joe Portlock - Formula 1 - Getty Images

Nikita Mazepin is catching up with his fellow Formula 1 rookie and Haas F1 teammate Mick Schumacher.

So says former F1 driver and occasional FIA steward Mika Salo, who earlier this season said 22-year-old Russian Mazepin "just doesn't belong in Formula 1". Others still hold that view, but Finn and former Ferrari driver Salo, who last raced in F1 in 2002, has now changed his tune.

"Actually, I didn't say exactly that. I was speaking out after the first race, when things were just starting to unfold," he told Russia media outlet Championat. "We didn't know then that their car was so bad. It's just a terrible car. Nikita has learned a lot since then and now he is driving very well. Everything is much better than it was in the first race."

However, he admits it is a major problem for Haas that Mazepin and Schumacher are now clashing so regularly both on and off the circuit.

"That's not normal," Salo, 54, said. "But when your car doesn't work very well, the only one you can fight with is your teammate. They're almost three seconds slower than everyone else. So it's quite logical that they are almost always next to each other on the track."

Haas is the only team in Formula 1 yet to place a driver in the top-10 of any race this season. Schumacher still holds the upper hand. He scored a season-best 12th earlier this season at Hungary, while Mazepin's best finish was 14th at race in Hungary and Baku.

Mazepin, however, has outqualified Schumacher in two of the last four races.

Both drivers are expected to return to Haas next year.

"Nikita is now almost matching Mick in speed. That's why they're constantly finding each other out there," Salo said.

Haas F1 enters the next race—September 16 in Russia—on a streak of 20 consecutive races without scoring a point and on pace for its worst year in Formula 1 since entering the series in 2016. Haas' last points finish was Romain Grosjean's ninth-place finish last year at the Nurburgring. Grosjean's place at the Nurburgring was buoyed, in part, by the fact that five cars failed to finish that race.

This year, Schumacher has finished on the lead lap in just three of 14 races. Mazepin has managed to finish on the lead lap only twice.

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