Formula 1 cars aren’t known for being easy to drive. Being heavily dependent on aerodynamic grip, the cars have to be driven fast to work at all, and drivers must continually maintain laptimes in a tight window in order to keep their tires operating at ideal temperatures. On top of that, the steering wheel of an F1 car bristles with controls for everything from brake bias to engine modes and differential settings. Trying to keep the car set up just right while lapping at racing speeds is a lot to deal with, and at Monaco it proved to be altogether too much for one Nikita Mazepin.
The incident in question occurred on lap 60 of the Monaco Grand Prix, in which the Haas pitwall asked the driver to change a setting on the car. “Driver default, Charlie-85, when you can,” requested Mazepin’s race engineer over the radio. After Mazepin replied that he could not comply, the engineers again requested the change, spelling out the precise dial positions required on the steering wheel. Upon Mazepin requesting clarification of the settings required, the engineers reiterated the numbers with more than a hint of tension. This leads Mazepin to snap back, shouting “I cannot do it, man, you are having a f*****g laugh, I am in Monaco!”
Obviously, the Monaco circuit is one of the more challenging drives on the Formula 1 calendar. Winding through the streets of the tiny principality, the barriers are never far away and there are few moments of respite throughout a lap. With that said, Formula 1 drivers are hired to do one of the toughest jobs in motorsports, and by and large are expected to routinely execute feats far beyond the capabilities of the average human being. This naturally extends to adjusting dials on the steering wheel while driving at race pace at any given event.
The incident came to light in a video Formula 1 shared of the best team radio moments of the Monaco Grand Prix; skip to 3:10 to listen to Mazepin sounding off during the race. That video can’t be embedded, but the radio feed is available on Youtube below.
It’s more evidence that suggests Mazepin may not measure up to the high standards of the Formula 1 grid. The Haas driver has proved to be one of the most controversial drivers in recent years for scandals both on and off the track. Whether it’s blocking other drivers, repeatedly spinning off track, or simply finishing miles behind the rest of the competition, Mazepin has done much to give himself a negative reputation. His performances in his debut year have raised questions as to whether he should be on the grid, with even famously unsuccessful former driver Taki Inoue questioning whether the FIA’s Super Licence system works, given that the Russian has been allowed to drive in F1. With Mazepin obviously struggling to control the basic features of a Formula 1 car in race conditions in Monaco, it puts previous incidents in clearer context.
Despite the difficulties, Mazepin had one of his most successful outings yet in Formula 1 this past weekend. Monaco marks the first time Mazepin has not finished last in a Grand Prix, and also the first time he beat his team mate Mick Schumacher, finishing 17th of the 18 runners left at the end of the race. Of course, it bears noting that Schumacher suffered an engine problem during the race which likely impacted the final result.
Whether or not Mazepin can shake his bad reputation will depend on his getting to grips with the very basics of Formula 1—from qualifying routines, to blue flags, and simply running the car’s systems throughout a race. No matter what happens going forward, though, it’s clear that much of the racing world has already lost their patience with the upstart Russian driver.
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