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Haas to run rebranded cars at Bahrain test

LAS VEGAS (AP) – The relationship between Haas F1 and its Russian sponsor and driver became untenable following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the owner of the United States (US)-based Formula One (F1) team said on Sunday.

Gene Haas also said his team was financially stable despite the decision on Saturday to cut ties with Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and sponsor Uralkali. The Russian fertiliser company is owned by Mazepin’s father, Dmitry Mazepin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Logos for Haas Automation, the CNC machine tool manufacturing company Haas founded, will be on his two cars at this week’s F1 test in Bahrain. Haas said reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will fill Mazepin’s seat in Bahrain, but he wasn’t clear on a permanent replacement. Fittipaldi is the grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi and ran two races for Haas in 2020 as the replacement for injured driver Romain Grosjean. The 25-year-old was born in Miami and holds dual citizenship in Brazil and the US.

But just because Haas said Fittipaldi will be in the car in Bahrain, that does not mean he’ll be teammates this year with Mick Schumacher. Haas last season overhauled his lineup with rookies Mazepin and Schumacher, the son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher.

Haas’ business plan allowed for a difficult 2021 season – Mazepin and Schumacher were at the back of the grid nearly every time on the track – but the introduction of a new car and an improved engine this season could make the team more competitive. Haas also insisted that his CNC company has always been the primary source of sponsorship for the F1 team and that Uralkali was only “the title sponsor“ in 2021 when both F1 cars were branded in the colours of the Russian flag.

The Haas team last month scrambled to remove the Uralkali branding from its cars when Russia invaded Ukraine at the same time F1 was testing in Barcelona.

“Haas has always been the major, primary sponsor, I don’t know why people said it became a Russian team. Haas Automation was always on the car,“ he said. He has dumped Uralkali but said the team is fine.

“We’re good. We’re fine. We’d like more money, of course, but we’re fine,“ he said. “This just gives us a bigger negative number.“

Nikita Mazepin driving during a practice session of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah. PHOTO: AFP

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