Nikita Mazepin admits his relationship with team-mate Mick Schumacher was portrayed quite accurately in 2021 – and “it’s fair to say” they are not exactly friends.
The Haas rookies, who stepped up simultaneously from being rivals in Formula 2, clashed several times on track in their first F1 season and the rivalry even spilled over into the media pen occasionally, with the odd not-so-subtle dig at each other’s driving.
The tension was intensified to a degree by the fact the Haas car was constantly the slowest, which meant Schumacher and Mazepin only had their colleague to compete directly against for a large part of the campaign.
However, as they prepare for their second season working together, Mazepin has suggested his relationship with Schumacher going forward will not be tempestuous – instead, while being far from best mates, that they have found a level on which they can operate civilly.
Asked if the perception of the situation had been exaggerated from outside, Mazepin told Autosport: “I’m not sure it was blown out of proportion. I think there were some difficult times when he was learning [about] me, I was learning [about] him.
“Every time I go out there, I want to be the car finishing in front and I’ve always wanted that. And I will never stop wanting that until I leave the paddock and hang my pass on a wall.
“But now it’s a very neutral relationship that doesn’t have any highs and lows, and it’s just consistent. And that’s the only way to achieve good results in this sport.”
Adding “it’s fair to say” they are not friends, the Moscow-born driver indicated their working relationship is considerably better than the personal one.
“I’m here to win races. I know that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future but the way to make it happen is to get the best car you can and to set it up in the fastest way possible. And that takes two people to do it,” explained Mazepin.
“I’m sure Mick has exactly the same thoughts, ambitions and goals in his mindset, so we do what’s necessary for the team. And I actually think we always try with both sides of the garage to go a bit beyond in achieving those goals.
“Of course, you have to slightly wind down your approach, be more careful when you are fighting with a team-mate because in F1 it’s sort of really critical if anything happens between the two cars from the same team.
“But at the end of the day, we are here for Nikita Mazepin who races from Russia and the other side is such and such from whichever country.
“I’m living my own life and I want to make my own life the best I can, and I want to make sure I have as many trophies [as possible] in my house from F1 or any other series before I go into doing something else.
“So yes, I’m a team player, but if I have to give up, I will never do [it].”
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