Uralkali Haas F1 Team All-Rookie Line-Up Poised For Debut Race

Jarrod Partridge

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(Photo courtesy Uralkali Haas F1 Team press office)

American Formula 1 team Uralkali Haas F1 Team is poised to kick-start its 2021 Formula 1 World Championship season with the FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2021 this weekend.

Last season was a challenging campaign for Uralkali Haas F1 Team and F1 alike, with the world having to adapt to new rules and protocols. While the 2021 season will commence with restrictions still in place the light at the end of the tunnel is getting both closer and brighter.

A New Chapter For Uralkali Haas F1 Team

The opening round marks the start of a new chapter for Uralkali Haas F1 Team with rookie drivers Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher poised to participate in their maiden grand prix.

Schumacher, supported by the Ferrari Driver Academy, joins Uralkali Haas F1 Team as the reigning FIA Formula 2 champion. He will be the third member of his family to grace the Formula 1 grid, with father Michael winning 91 races and seven world titles, and uncle Ralf victorious on six occasions. Schumacher began his assimilation with Uralkali Haas F1 Team in December 2020, taking part in FP1 at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, before running in the young driver test.

Mazepin first drove a Formula 1 car aged 17, debuting at Silverstone in 2016 with Force India, and has since tested machinery with reigning World Champions Mercedes. Now with Uralkali Haas F1 Team Mazepin will make his championship bow off the back of a runner-up position in the GP3 Series and multiple wins in Formula 2, classifying fifth in the overall standings.

Pre-season testing afforded Mazepin and Schumacher the opportunity to gather valuable experience with the VF-21. Despite the abbreviated program, with testing lasting just three days, Uralkali Haas F1 Team completed 394 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit – equating to 2132.328 kilometers (1325.022 miles) – split between Mazepin (213 laps) and Schumacher (181 laps).

The Bahrain International Circuit will act as Formula 1’s curtain-raiser for the third time in history, having held the honor in 2006 and 2010, and marks a return to familiar terrain for Uralkali Haas F1 Team, with the venue hosting two championship events last fall. Uralkali Haas F1 Team has scored 24 points at the Sakhir-based track in its history, taking a strong fifth place on two occasions, 2016 and 2018. Schumacher made his Formula 1 test debut in Bahrain in 2019, with Scuderia Ferrari, and sealed the Formula 2 championship at the venue in 2020. Mazepin also has experience of the circuit, mounting the Formula 2 podium last November, having debuted at the circuit in 2019.

Nikita Mazepin Ready For F1 Challenge

After being the subject of much scrutiny during the off-season, Nikita Mazepin kept something of a low profile in recent weeks as he prepared for life in F1.

“It’s been a great pleasure to be part of the team, especially in these difficult times when Covid restrictions don’t allow you to be present with them face-to-face all the time. We started the year working together using virtual platforms and then obviously I was able to get to England and meet everyone. I was extremely surprised at how high the motivation is in the team despite knowing that we’re going into a very difficult year. Everyone’s putting in the most effort they can.”

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. Obviously, I’m aware it’s just literally a few days away now until the lights go out and the first race is underway. It’s pretty surreal because the waiting time has been very long. Hopefully everything will go smoothly, and I believe that I’m ready, so I’ve got nothing to be hesitant about.”

“To be with these big names in Formula 1, to be sharing the same starting grid, is very humbling and very surreal. I’ve watched these guys race on TV and I’ve looked up to their achievements since I was very young. I’m a big fan of the sport itself, every Sunday I used to sit down in front of the TV and watch it. To be together with them is humbling, and hopefully racing with the best I can also learn as much as possible.”

“I’m aware that the intensity is very high, it’s the busiest schedule that there’s ever been planned in Formula 1. I’m aware it’s going to be very difficult to keep the focus and keep in good shape throughout the whole year. But at this exact time, I’m so hungry for racing, and to just get started – nothing else is in my head apart from those positive thoughts,” concluded Mazepin.

Schumacher Name Returns To F1 Grid

Not afraid of the racing in his father’s shadow, Mick Schumacher is eager to begin building his own legacy in the sport, something the rookie is confident he can do both this season and beyond.

“My experience with the team has been good. Obviously, we’ve had the FP1 session and the full weekend together before the test, the rookie day, in Abu Dhabi last season, which was really good. Now having had the first pre-season test with me being an official driver in the team, it’s been very nice – I feel super comfortable with the team. We’re working hard and I really feel everyone’s super motivated. That’s also then really motivating for me. I’m happy the season’s getting underway now and we really start the work.”

“Obviously, I’m super excited about the first race in Bahrain. Thinking about it, it’s thirty years since my dad started his first race, and now I’m starting mine. The fact that I’m in Formula 1 and away to be racing – it feels so amazing. I’m so happy that I’m finally there, finally able to race with everybody, and to show my potential working with a great team. I will learn and improve as a driver and as a human.”

“I’m definitely looking forward to Spa (Belgium). I think it’s one of the most iconic tracks to race at. Suzuka (Japan) as well, it’s a track I haven’t raced at yet. I’ve driven a lot of laps on it in a simulator so it’s definitely one of the tracks I’m most looking forward to on this calendar that I haven’t raced at. Obviously, there are many race tracks that I love, such as Monza (Italy) too. I’m happy to get to all of those tracks in a Formula 1 car and feel the speed in the car. I’m happy, proud and really looking forward to it,” added Schumacher.

Team Boss Guenther Steiner Excited By 2021 Possibilities

Team boss Guenther Steiner is one of the most popular protagonists on Netflix hit 'Drive to Survive' but behind the fun-loving facade is the spirit of a competitor who is eager to bring his team back to the dizzying heights they experienced in 2018.

While the team has conceded 2021 will be a struggle, with development focussed on the new regulations coming into place in 2022, Steiner believes there is still a lot to fight for this year, and is excited by having two rookies in his cars.

“I think we’ve got a few things to keep us motivated through the year. We’ve got two young drivers that we need to develop, and we will develop over the year. That will come with some excitement, I’m sure of that. Then the light at the end of the tunnel is 2022 where we will be back at our full strength because we regrouped last year and we made a step back to make two forward. For sure, some things will be challenging – also personally to keep on pushing, but I think we can do this. In the end, it’s all in nine months, but it’s 23 races. We are prepared for it and we’ll get it done.”

“For us it’s very difficult to have a back-to-back with the power unit from last year. But I fully trust Ferrari in what they are saying to us as well as what they’re doing. We can see on their car that it’s better. For us, our testing was mainly focused on getting the two rookies as many laps as possible. We couldn’t really do back-to-back as Mick, for example, was only in last year’s car for one full day after Abu Dhabi, and Nikita only drove a Haas F1 car for the first time on our shakedown in Bahrain this year. I fully trust in Ferrari and I’m sure that the power unit is more powerful.”

“To be honest, I didn’t like last year’s calendar, at least I didn’t like the reason why it came to be due to the pandemic. There was a little bit of excitement though visiting new places or going to places we hadn’t been in a long time. Now it appears to be more of a normal year, not completely though. Imola as the second race for example, normally that wouldn’t be there, but it came back last year. It’s good but hopefully the pandemic settles down or goes away completely soon and we go back to things being very normal. Normality, at the moment, is not being normal.”

"If we can get a point or two at some stage – that would be a fantastic result. But we are realistic, and points will be hard to come by. As long as we learn, we improve, and can get back to where we were in the past – I’m happy. It’s going to be a hard climb this season, but we will get something good out of it, we always do,” concluded Steiner.

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