Nikita Mazepin believes that he did nothing wrong in the last-lap incident with Mick Schumacher during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite his Haas team-mate saying that he had received an apology.
The incident happened on the final lap of the race as the trailing Schumacher pulled to the right of Mazepin in a bid to take 13th place on the long drag to the line. Mazepin moved to his right, forcing Schumacher to steer more aggressively to the right as he successfully completed the pass.
While there was no stewards’ investigation, Schumacher was furious about the move and suggested over the radio that Mazepin was trying to “kill us”.
Schumacher, who is clearly still unhappy with what happened despite his attempts to be diplomatic, explained that the incident was discussed after the race in a meeting initially involving team principal Guenther Steiner, chief race engineer Ayo Komatsu and Mazepin but that he also subsequently joined.
“There was a meeting right after the race between I think Guenther, Ayo and Nikita,” said Schumacher. “They talked about the incident and after they called me in, we spoke about it altogether.
“He did, after seeing the video, apologise. Then I no longer thought about it afterwards.
“In the moment, it was rather confusing because I was not expecting it, especially between team-mates. Obviously, I understand that on the last lap we will fight.
“If you have such a tow then the only way you stop somebody is by scaring him or pushing him into the wall and, obviously, he tried to do that.
“I put my foot down, I got by him anyway but still I think that it was unexpected from my side, and I think that’s why I had such a strong reaction to it afterwards.
“But as I said, as the team also mentioned, the air in that sense is all cleared up, and we’re all on a fresh start.”
However, when asked by The Race if he had apologised, Mazepin was equivocal and suggested any perceived apology was only on the basis of Schumacher being unhappy rather than because he had done anything wrong.
He also warned that Schumacher should not expect to have it “too easy” in battle in future.
“Our discussions that go on within the team I believe should stay within the team,” said Mazepin.
“However, if it was already brought out, I will just say that I apologised to him if that’s how he felt and he clearly was very upset.
“But I would just say that it’s very important that he doesn’t expect to have it too easy and I’m never going to not block for whatever reason on one another, but I just clearly didn’t expect him to be where he ended up being.
“And if he felt the way he did, I said sorry because that’s what I think I should be doing but it wasn’t for my particular doings in that.”
Mazepin also disagreed with the suggestion that what happened should be called an incident on the basis that there was no contact between them.
While the Haas team has stated that the air was cleared after the race, something Schumacher also said, Mazepin’s position is that there was no problem and described it as a misunderstanding
“I would like to be very direct, the wording there isn’t quite right, there was no incident here,” Mazepin said.
“Both cars returned to the pits with front wings and the paint job was as polished as it was just before the race, so I would like to look at that in a pretty positive way.
“I think we’ve had a bit of a misunderstanding between us. Obviously, going into your last lap, it’s a pretty hectic race.
“I thought he would choose the inside line and then he chose the outside line and when I saw that he committed to it I backed out of it because in the end, we’re not fighting for any points and the team’s result is the priority for me.
“We have a positive vibe in the team. It has been like that since day one and continues to be so.
“And obviously with both young drivers pushing the limits, you get to a point like this but as long as both cars are returned in one piece I feel that’s fine, which the team does.”
Schumacher suggested that the incident was potentially not investigated by the stewards because often clashes between team-mates are let go to be dealt with in-house.
But he added that if there is a repeat in the future, he expects it to be looked at by the stewards and race director Michael Masi.
“If it happens again, probably there will be harsher consequences,” he said when asked by The Race if he was surprised the stewards didn’t investigate.
“But in that case, because it was an incident that happened between team-mates, it’s probably kept more internally [instead of] being outspoken and dealt with by the race directors or stewards.
“I think that if it happens again, surely it will be addressed to the stewards and the race director.”
Schumacher added that now they have cleared the air, the trust he has for Mazepin can be rebuilt in the future.
But the fact he admitted that he still doesn’t know what to expect from his team-mate suggests he still isn’t confident that the lesson has been learned – something supported by what Mazepin has said.
“You have to race with him. And I think that trust is built and it for sure can be built again,” said Schumacher.
“Obviously, right now I don’t really know what to expect in a one versus one but in end, I’m sure that after the talks that we had with the team, everything should be in order to build up that trust again.
“And we are all racing drivers so I’m sure we will manage.”
Mazepin said that he understood why Schumacher was angry on the basis that emotions run high in the car and says that he now believes the discussion is closed.
“When you’re in the car, the emotions to run high,” said Mazepin.
“Unfortunately, F1 drivers have been given radios which are broadcasted now, which I think are on the step to inside of the head of the driver
“But I would say that this situation was very clear from my side and we discussed it with the team, we discussed it with Mick and I hope that from now on, it will be clear.”