Nikita Mazepin thinks it will be a “completely open” battle between himself and Mick Schumacher as to which of them gains the upper hand at Haas.
The two young drivers were brought in to form an all-rookie line-up at the American-owned team this season after Haas decided to dispense with the services of experienced duo Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for financial reasons.
Both of the newcomers offer much more commercially, with the benefits obvious of having Schumacher as a Ferrari Academy driver and son of the former seven-time World Champion.
Mazepin, meanwhile, has brought with him substantial sponsorship revenue via his father Dmitry’s businesses, as seen when the new car was launched.
But in terms of their merits on track, more is expected of Schumacher for he arrives at Haas as the reigning champion of the F2 series.
However, his Moscow-born team-mate is clearly not without talent, for he also won two F2 races last season on the way to finishing fifth in the standings, and thinks his past history with Schumacher at the very start of their careers suggests there may not be much between them.
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Asked if he can beat Michael Schumacher’s son, Mazepin said, quoted by Motorsport.com: “That’s an interesting question. I beat him in the past when we both drove the same car. But Mick also beat me.
“I think this battle is still completely open. He is certainly a very strong driver so it will be an interesting challenge, I have no doubt about that.”
If the pair find themselves in close proximity on the track, it is likely to be at the back of the pack because Haas are expected to bring up the rear in many races this season unless the new engine supplied by Ferrari generates significant improvement.
Haas will not be developing their car throughout the campaign either, turning the focus quickly to their challenger for the sport’s sweeping new regulations in 2022, but Mazepin insists he is unconcerned about the lack of upgrades.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” said the 22-year-old. “I have a lot of confidence in the work Ferrari and Haas have done with the engine and car.
“I recently got to know everyone and when I see how hard the whole team is working, they really deserve better results than they have achieved in the past period.”
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