Mazepin labels Schumacher ‘cheeky’ as Haas teammates trade blows

ZANDVOORT, Netherlands – Rookie teammates Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher spent Saturday evening firing verbal shots at each other through the media after a contentious incident in qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix.

At the end of Q1, Sebastian Vettel was forced to abandon his final attempt when Mazepin tried to overtake Schumacher through the final corner of the Zandvoort circuit right in front of him. The Haas drivers were cleared of wrongdoing by the stewards due to the large build-up of slow-moving cars at that point of the circuit, which even Vettel said made the incident unavoidable.

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But Mazepin remained frustrated, saying the situation between with Schumacher was part of a wider problem internally at the team.

Mazepin was upset that Schumacher had overtaken on a slow lap, an attempt to get better track position for a flying lap, and was trying to get back out in front at the final corner so he could attempt a clean lap of his own.

The Russian driver felt Schumacher had gone against a team agreement which he himself had been told off for not obeying at Imola, the second race of his F1 career.

“I’m really annoyed to be honest because it should have not been that difficult with traffic as rules within an F1 team one weekend you are the first car next weekend you are the second car,” Mazepin said after qualifying.

“This weekend was my turn to be the first car and I’ve once in Imola overtaken the first car when I was second and I got a bollocking from the team, and now this has happened to me the second team, he overtakes me and bumps me into the traffic and f—- my last attempt in quali on purpose, so I’m not happy because if you do it once and he didn’t know about it fine, but twice that’s deliberate.

“I don’t like it when there’s tension, it shouldn’t be like that. I already tell the team what I think and they agree.”

Schumacher later explained that his race engineer had told him he was OK to overtake Mazepin and that he has been struggling with his tyre warm-up all weekend.

“I don’t quite know what he’s talking about,” Schumacher told Sky Germany response to Mazepin’s quotes. “I don’t know if his crew put it through to him, but I asked if I could overtake him because my tyres were quite cold and he usually does a lap slower than mine.

“I got the OK and accordingly passed him early enough and then also had Lando [Norris] between us. So there was no reason to make a drama out of it, because his lap wasn’t ruined because of that.

“I believe that we will discuss this internally with the team and Gunther will then also comment on it.

“But from my side, I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

Two hours after the incident, just as the stewards released their verdict over the Vettel incident, the drivers faced the media again in a Teams call.

Mazepin went first and he doubled down on his criticism of Schumacher, although he said he now accepted Schumacher had not been trying to deliberately hamper his lap.

“I’m Russian and the way that I believe we are is we are very direct. I know my place in the team, I’ve got a team boss and I am more than happy to follow the rules because I think it’s very important to be a team. One day the rules will play towards you, one day the rules will play against you.

“At least it’s consistent and you know where you stand. What I don’t like is when people are cheeky fighting for P19. I think it just shows their true nature.”

Mazepin suggested he doubts any conversation with Schumacher will be amicable, adding: “We’ll have a nice chat… maybe not so nice from the other party, I don’t know. But we’ll just analyse it and try and make sure that we understand each other better.”

Schumacher said: “I know that he’s quite vocal about things in the press. We’ve talked internally about it and I’m sure the team will give out a statement about it.”

“I’m used to have team internal discussions rather than public in the press, so that’s a new thing. But every driver is different and I think it’s just a matter of getting the right flow and right communication I think, then things will settle.”

Team boss Guenther Steiner downplayed the falling out, saying he saw it as two young drivers competing for F1’s newest and most inexperienced team, knowing they can only beat their teammate each weekend given the uncompetitive nature of Haas 2021 car.

“I think we work quite a lot on it,” Steiner said about the Mazepin-Schumacher relationship. “They are both young, they want to prove one is better than the other one and this is the one of the problems you encounter when you have two rookies.

“If you have got an experienced driver it is a lot less there, this problem. So this is to be expected.

“I would be disappointed if they did not want to beat each other, if they were just happy to be last and second last. On one side it is they are competitive, both of them, and they try to do the best. Sometimes the relationship by doing this suffers, but that’s part of when you have two rookie drivers in a car that cannot beat any of the other cars.

“It’s just part of our year this year and just need to work on it and hopefully we can get it to an acceptable level that it doesn’t spiral.”

On whether Haas needs to improve its procedures for qualifying, Steiner said: “Should we have better systems in place? We have systems in place but you always try to maximise every opportunity and that’s what we tried to do and sometimes it doesn’t work.

“I think we need to go through this and going through this now is a lot better than doing it next year when we hopefully have a better car.”

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