The idea of an American Formula One team has been something sought after by both fans and the racing fraternity for decades, and it finally happened when Gene Haas decided to enter the sport in 2016. America was proud, but the feeling didn’t last long. Today, the team unveiled its new challenger featuring red, white, and blue colors throughout, but with an interesting—Russian—twist. And controversially so, because Russian national imagery is banned from international sports due to a major doping scandal, making the 2021 car borderline illegal. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also the flag of its most controversial driver: Nikita Mazepin.
Mazepin’s arrival in F1 as a 2021 rookie caused for a lot of talk in the paddock—some about achievement, when your teammate is Mick actual Schumacher—and with a rap sheet that included assaulting a rival in a junior series to posting a video of himself groping a woman in Dubai. The latter led his own team to describe his actions as abhorrent. As a Russian athlete, he is also required to race under a neutral nationality and without using national imagery
The team is now rebranded as Uralkali Haas, with the title sponsor being Mazepin’s father, Dmitri Mazepin’s company. Uralkali’s company colors are green and red, so the decision to brand the car with the Russian flag scheme is unquestionably based on nationality, with the only other sponsor being Mick Schumacher’s personal relationship to 1&1, an internet service provided whose logo is navy blue.
Haas struggled for money during 2020 and ultimately replaced both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for financial reasons, saying they needed to bring in new drivers to fund the team. Mazepin, who came fifth in last year’s Formula 2 championship, amassing 11 penalty points and nearly being banned from completing the season, represents a huge funding opportunity via his billionaire father and a PR black hole from his own conduct.
Additional controversy unrelated to Nikita comes from international sporting bodies having banned Russian athletes from competing under their country’s flag after mass doping was discovered. The Russian motorsport federation clarified last month that drivers cannot use Russian national emblems on liveries or helmet designs, as part of being unable to represent the country.
According to a report by Racefans, however, it appears the FIA has been made aware of the Haas livery, and it’s been deemed compliant by the governing body due to a loophole in the rules. Still, it remains to be seen whether this livery will fly by the time F1 gets to Bahrain testing.
The official wording is that it is not permitted to “publicly display the flag of the Russian Federation (current or historical), the name “Russia” or any national emblem or national symbol on their clothing at any official facilities or in other areas controlled by the FIA or the organizers of FIA competitions”—which does leave, possibly, the aforementioned loophole for liveries, should Mazepin’s German teammate races in the same trim.
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