Rival Hopes To Steer Clear of Nikita Mazepin at F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Count Alpine’s Esteban Ocon as one Formula 1 driver who is hoping he doesn’t run into Haas F1 Team rookie Nikita Mazepin this weekend in Monaco.

Or, more precisely, Ocon is hoping Mazepin doesn’t run into him.

“When I come across him on track, I’m twice as careful compared to others,” Ocon said recently.

On Wednesday, during a Zoom media conference ahead of Sunday’s F1 Monaco Grand Prix, Ocon doubled down and did not deny that he keeps one eye out for Mazepin during a track session.

“I’ve already had a couple incidents in practice where things happen,” Ocon said. “So, as soon as you take the track, there could be a risk for your race weekend. So you need to be 200 percent alert on anything that’s happening. I’ve come across Nikita quite a few times where he was on the line or something was happening. Nothing bad happened yet, but just need to be careful.”

Mazepin, to his credit, has righted the ship somewhat after spinning out on the first lap of this first race of the season in Bahrain and then again in practice the next time out at Imola. His first four race finishes have been 20th, 17th, 19th and 19th. He’s yet to finish on the lead lap.

Mazepin is not expecting much better this weekend in Monaco.

“Being very honest, (I’m) not too confident because so far I’ve struggled with the car this year,” Mazepin said on Wednesday. “I haven’t been able to extract the most out of it, and the balance (has been) appearing very late in the weekend where the grip was arriving with the soft compounds. Therefore, I found the car most of the time very unpredictable.

“But as you know, it’s a 23-race year and we’re quite early on still so I think getting confidence at Monaco is very important. The goals are to make laps and to build up to it gradually. Realistically, we have to find our way here. It’s a drivers’ circuit and drivers skill I believe matter a lot around here. I’m confident going in with myself, but of course knowing there is not much downforce available in the car, it’s not going to be easy.”

On the other hand Mazepin’s fellow rookie teammate at Haas, Mick Schumacher, is not seeing the same thing with the VF-21 machine.

“Obviously, if you have a car that you trust, one that you feel comfortable in, most likely that will help you get into Monaco, and it FP1, with somewhat more of an open mind to learn the track,” Schumacher said. “If you also have to learn the car, of if you’re not comfortable in the car, that definitely makes it a lot more difficult.

“I’m super comfortable in the car and I’m excited to learn how to drive around Monaco in the VF-21.”

Mazepin, while still a bit uncomfortable in his race car, seems fine with the hits he frequently takes on social media. Some in the social media world have even stuck the 22-year-old driver with the nickname, “Maze-spin” to highlight his early struggles to keep his car on the track.

“To be massively honest, to have some sort of experience with the (online) situations, you have to be an active user of social media, which I cannot entirely say I am,” he said. “There’s obviously a few things that I find interesting, such as sports and racing on there—for example seeing what F1 posts because they post some very good inside content.

“But at the same time, if people are enjoying seeing what they’re seeing, that’s what matters for them. But I don’t normally see it, especially on a race weekend. I use my phone only to speak with my team, and that’s it.”

It was an Instagram post of Mazepin allegedly inappropriately touching a female passenger in a car that got Mazepin in some hot water before the season. Since then, Mazepin has been an infrequent contributor to his Facebook and Twitter pages. He’s since made his Instagram page private.

This week, Mazepin and Schumacher return to the site of of the best days in Haas’ six-year history of Formula 1. In 2017, Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished eighth and 10th to mark the teams first double-points finish.

“This year, we’ll be far off coming home eighth and 10th, we know that, and we can deal with that. We’re patient,” Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner said. “Thinking back to 2017 though, it was very cool to have achieved that result in Monaco. It was another first for the team, and they kept coming at that time.

“We want to get back to that performance level.”

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