How Mazepin ended up so underprepared for the Qatar GP - The Race
Formula 1

How Mazepin ended up so underprepared for the Qatar GP

Nov 21 2021
By Edd Straw

Nikita Mazepin described his Qatar Grand Prix weekend as “like playing virtual tennis on PlayStation to prepare for a tournament” after problems dramatically restricted his Formula 1 free practice running before qualifying.

The Haas driver completed 16 laps during the opening free practice session, seven of those push laps.

But a wide moment led to the monocoque sustaining a crack that forced the team to build up a new car around the spare after FP1.

The work was completed in time for him to participate in FP3, only for the car to fire on only four cylinders as Mazepin attempted to join the track, leading to him being ordered to stop at the pitlane exit.

He took to the track for qualifying, ending up last and just under 2.5s slower than team-mate Mick Schumacher.

“It’s not the toughest, it’s just no laps,” said Mazepin of his weekend so far.

“I wouldn’t call it a weekend because I’ve had a lot of free time watching telly the last few days and trying to learn the track by watching what other people are doing.

“But it’s like playing virtual tennis on PlayStation to prepare for a tournament.”

Mazepin, whose qualifying was also impeded by suffering front wing damage in a kerb strike at the exit of Turn 4 on his first push lap, felt he was still learning the circuit when he headed out in qualifying.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Qatar Grand Prix Qualifying Day Doha, Qatar

He cited the fact that Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc suggested earlier in the weekend that it takes 15-20 laps to learning a new track as showing how difficult his task is.

And while Mazepin is one of only two drivers to have already raced on the Losail International Circuit, doing so in the MRF Challenge single-seater series in 2014, he felt that was of little relevance.

“In all honesty, I raced here eight years ago and for the right years I’ve raced I haven’t expected to come back here, so it’s not like you keep it in mind, it’s not like you do it on the sim,” said Mazepin when asked by The Race about the situation.

“And it’s not like any teams really have it on the sim, or had it on the sim before it was announced that we’ll come here.

“Unfortunately, when I raced here there was no such thing as the [exit] kerbs, there was track and Astroturf, which I think with the amount of sand actually is a very clear and safe way to keep the cars alive but also keep everyone respecting the track limits. But at the same time, it changes the lines that we take.

“It’s not the worst place that it could have happened because there’s much more dangerous tracks to drive on and try and do a good lap if you don’t know them, such as Monaco etc. But things could be better.”

Mazepin argued that the kerb strike that damaged the chassis and the one that damaged his front wing in Q1 caused problems largely because of the angle of impact rather than running too far wide.

The chassis is repairable, although the team has yet to decide whether the timelines make this worth doing given the fact the season will be complete in three weeks.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Qatar Grand Prix Practice Day Doha, Qatar

Team principal Guenther Steiner paid tribute to the effort put in by the Haas team, with both Mazepin and Schumacher’s crew members contributing to the rebuild work. But he described this as a “no go” weekend for Mazepin.

“They changed the chassis yesterday and finished it off this morning and everything was fine,” said Steiner on Saturday night when asked by The Race about the problems.

“They put the car on the wheels and the engine was firing only on four cylinders when he went out, so they pushed it back and tried to find the cause and if they can fix it quickly, but they couldn’t find it.

“So it was decided to take the engine out and change the chassis wiring loom, the ECUs, everything possible and then put it back. The guys did a fantastic job.

“It was his ‘no go’ weekend, everything happened that you don’t want to happen.

“But it’s part of learning and sometimes you get disappointed because everything goes wrong and when it starts to go wrong, it always gets worse. It compromised his whole weekend.”

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