The Haas Formula 1 team has split with Nikita Mazepin and title sponsor Uralkali.
News of who will replace Mazepin in the seat is not expected until early next week.
Haas’s upheaval ahead of the second and final pre-season test next week has been on the cards since its initial response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.
After Putin ordered a military attack on Ukraine last Thursday, Haas removed the branding of its Russian title sponsor Uralkali on its car and paddock facilities and ran in a basic white livery for the final day of Barcelona testing on the Friday.
Uralkali’s sponsorship was tied to Mazepin’s place in the team as it is owned by his father Dmitry.
He is one of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen and believed to be close to Putin, having had a business meeting with him earlier this year and been called by the president to the Moscow Kremlin alongside 36 others on the day of the Ukraine invasion.
As mounting sanctions have been imposed on Russian businesses, oligarchs and citizens, so too have athletes been hit with consequences – with various international bodies banning Russia competitors from taking part in a range of sports.
Whether it was due to economic sanctions on Mazepin’s father and Uralkali, or logistical implications such as Russians being denied entry into host countries or Russia-issued licences being banned, the likelihood of Mazepin taking part in the 2022 season has grown increasingly slim.
On Saturday, Haas announced it had terminated its Uralkali title sponsor and that Mazepin is to be replaced.
“Haas F1 Team has elected to terminate, with immediate effect, the title partnership of Uralkali and the driver contract of Nikita Mazepin,” said a team statement.
“As with the rest of the Formula 1 community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”
Mazepin made his F1 debut with Haas in 2021 but sparked controversy even before he completed a single race after a video emerged of him appearing to grab a woman’s breast.
Haas stuck with Mazepin through a torrent of criticism after that incident in late 2020, and through a poor rookie season in which he was comprehensively outpaced by team-mate Mick Schumacher.
He leaves F1 with a best result of 14th.
The Uralkali funding Mazepin brought to the team was linked with safeguarding Haas’s future as it was vulnerable after the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it is understood that Haas is not reliant on the Uralkali funding and that its future in F1 is not under threat.
Haas has Pietro Fittipaldi as its reserve but it would seem likely that it would pursue a new full-time driver to replace Mazepin for the season.