• Castor Chan

How #WeSayNoToMazepin Highlights a Bigger Issue Across F1


Image credit by @RedshawF1 on Twitter

It has been almost 2 weeks since December 8th, the start of Nikita Mazepin’s most recent controversy, yet no major action has been taken despite the community publicly calling for attention. There is no excuse for such behaviour and to make matters worse, the apology he issued on the 9th (that many considered insincere) has now been deleted across all his social media.


To summarise, this is not Mazepin’s only transgression, only the most recent. On the 8th of December, he posted a video on his public Instagram story, where he was seen groping another girl’s body seemingly without her consent. He subsequently deleted it and followed up with a picture of an apology across his social media, which again, is now taken down. Many people were not satisfied, pointing out certain sentences like “the fact that it was posted onto social media” and “hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula 1 driver” to suggest that he was insincere about it. And judging by the way he has deleted all of his Tweets and stayed silent on social media, the community’s opinion does not seem to swing in his favour.

Mazepin's deleted statement on social media

On top of this, the woman pictured in the video has released a statement claiming that the two were acquaintances, and it was all simply a joke. Yet some careful digging would have unveiled that previous to the statement, they did not follow each other on social media, and for them to have been “good friends for a long time”, seems unlikely and hints at something more happening behind the scenes. While there has been no proof of such as of yet, fans have been quick to jump on theories of threats or payoffs given Mazepin’s well-off background and his father’s connections.


Haas F1 Team, the team that signed Mazepin to their 2021 lineup, have publicly denounced his behaviour on social media, and claimed that “the matter is being dealt with internally and no further comment shall be made at this time.” Guenther Steiner, the Haas team principal, has also said in regards to the actions to be taken against Mazepin that he “will keep them private.” Yet if Mazepin were to lose his seat or suffer a major punishment, there would have been no way to keep that under wraps, cementing the opinion that there will be no lasting repercussions for Mazepin.


Fans are also critical of Mazepin’s path into F1. Yes, he has racing talent, but he uses his skills in a dangerous way that awarded him 11 penalty points in the 2020 F2 season alone. (One away from an automatic race ban) He has also been dangerous off track, notable incidents being him punching fellow racer Callum Illot in F3 and almost hitting Yuki Tsunoda with a P2 place marker. There have been other occasions where he has made homophobic and racist comments on social media and engaged in inappropriate conversations with female fans. But above all the community has heaped displeasure on his wealthy background. Many believe that it is the main reason for his seat at Haas, as the smaller and newer team need the investment Mazepin brings in to further development and compete with the front runners. His father, the chairman of a Russian chemical company, has put a lot of money into giving his son F1 testing with teams like Force India and Mercedes. Mercedes have declined to give him a seat in the 2020 Abu Dhabi test, instead allowing Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries to take part. Toto Wolff has claimed that this decision was not linked to Mazepin’s actions, though fans disagree. This experience that he has in an F1 car is incredibly valuable given that Mazepin is only 21, and so he fits perfectly for what Haas was looking for: investment and a young driver.


While this is a big problem in itself, it only serves to spotlight a bigger issue across F1, a level of insincerity in what matters most, which as an F1 fan, it is incredibly disappointing to see and call out. This is not the first incident that fans have not been happy with, race venues being one highly debated topic. From this year alone, there have been issues with Saudi Arabia, a race set in a country with questionable human rights values, and the thankfully resolved issue around the Brazilian Grand Prix, which would have involved serious deforestation if the new circuit has been built as planned.


Then comes the investigation over Lewis Hamilton’s choice of shirt. The grid has been allowed to take the knee and wear “End Racism” shirts in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, yet officials have decided that a shirt bearing slogans saying “arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” and “say her name” is too far. To say that to a black racing driver who has made history in the sport and continues to advocate for numerous deserving issues (diversity, environmental awareness etc), does not send a good message to the community, especially in this age of change in the world and to incoming younger fans. Imagine the frustration that people must feel to see a world champion get disciplined over a shirt while a predator, who has publicly sexually assaulted a woman among other transgressions, gets to walk away scot-free and secure one of the 20 coveted seats in the pinnacle of formula racing.


This comes on top of their new slogan for this year, We Race As One, a claim to fight inequality in motorsport, and it is not the only policy/statement they have tried to enforce either. When Liberty Media took over, they stopped the use of grid girls in January 2018 (which initially garnered much backlash from older fans) but was ultimately a positive step forward. Sean Bratches, director of commercial operations at the time, said, “we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern-day societal norms.” Silvia Bellot has also made waves as F1’s only female steward and is set to be the youngest FIA race director for F2 and F3 next season. F1 has announced that they will be partnering and promoting the W Series for their 8 races in 2021, which has been met with much support and positive feedback from fans. With so many emerging female racers, team and track personnel and media persons vying for success in the motorsport industry, it is incredibly damaging to see that Mazepin’s wrongdoings will simply be glossed over.


And in regards to how Haas are dealing with Mazepin, the FIA also published a message in which they noted, “the ethical principles and diverse and inclusive culture of our sport are of the utmost importance to the FIA and Formula 1.” In the FIA Annual General Assembly, (hosted this year on the 18th of December) they also agreed to “modify composition of the World Motor Sport Council by stipulating that it includes at least three members of each gender.” As of now, there are only 2 females out of 28 members, Michele Mouton and Amina Mohamed.


With the promotion of such progressive values, how can the FIA turn their cheek on the Mazepin situation? The woman who had initially released the statement has now unfollowed Mazepin and posted some questionable things on her Instagram story (“don’t let anyone touch you or disrespect you again” and a photo saying “protect drunk girls”) implying that she was not consenting in the video. Even commentators have mentioned it during race broadcasts and big content creators have been seen using the hashtags on their social media. If the world is protesting against Mazepin retaining his 2021 seat, why isn’t the FIA taking action? As a prominent and global sports organisation, image is undoubtedly a big factor on their mind, and that is indicated with all that they have done to make progress. So to see that there is no weight behind their statements is hugely disappointing. As a young female fan, it is upsetting to support a sport where they do not return the same courtesy to the community that watches them. It is clear that this issue has reached a standpoint. If Haas does not retain Mazepin, they lose much of the investment he brings, never mind the fact many talented and respected drivers do not have a seat. Yet if they and the FIA do nothing about it, they will lose the reputation and respect they have built over the last few years.


If the FIA are serious about women and diversity in motorsport, they must create a safe environment, and this is where they should begin.

 

As a writer I try my best to remain neutral, yet such actions cannot be brushed under the rug. The petition will be linked below, and it is entirely your choice whether or not you sign it. If you liked this article, I would appreciate it if you shared it, thank you.


http://chng.it/HwsVGppkHV


The image used in the cover was made by @RedshawF1 on Twitter!


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