Haas on the Lookout For a New Driver Following Split With Russia’s Nikita Mazepin

F1 Team Haas Nikita Mazepin

As widely predicted, the Haas Formula 1 team has ended its title sponsorship contract with Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and Russian sponsors Uralkali with immediate effect.

Announcing the split on Twitter, the team said: “As with the rest of the Formula One community, the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine and wishes for a swift and peaceful end to the conflict.”

Haas have yet to name a replacement driver although Pietro Fittipaldi, the team’s current reserve driver, is considered ‘hot favourite’. The 25-year-old replaced Romain Grosjean for two races at the end of 2020 after the Frenchman was involved in the infamous and shocking fiery incident in Bahrain.

A grandson of two-time Formula One world champion Emerson Fittipaldi and closely related to former F1 star Max Papis, Pietro has extensive experience in many forms of motor spot – particularly in North America – albeit he cannot be described as a regular winner.

Given Mazepin – whose father owned Uralkali – brought a considerable cash into the Haas team, it is foolish to believe Fittipaldi’s appointment is a forgone conclusion. Indeed, Indian Formula 2 driver Jehan Daruvala and 20-year-old Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri are also believed to be in contention.

Will The Haas Seat Go the Biggest Cheque Book?

Oscar Piastri is the reigning Formula 2 champion. An Australian, managed by former Red Bull driver, Mark Webber, it is unclear if he comes with financial backing which will be vital to the struggling American F1 team.

Daruvala was born in Mumbai. His father is the current MD of Sterling & Wilson, an associate company of Shapoorji Pallonji – according to Wikipedia, considered “one of India’s most valuable private enterprises.”

In a sport where money buys seats towards the back of the Formula 1 grid, the Red Bull junior team member might just be the surprise appointee by the time the Official Pre-Season Test begins on Thursday March 10 in Bahrain.

Bahrain Test to Tell All

That test will come to a close just eight days before the opening Grand Prix weekend of the season – which takes place at the same venue – ten days later.

In that race, Lewis Hamilton has already been installed as the 7/4 favourite. That is despite testing in Barcelona giving mixed signals into the true pecking order of the 2022 teams and drivers.

It is fair to say no team truly showed their hand during three days of testing at the Spanish circuit. Ferrari managed to record the most practice laps, 439 in total. Mercedes garnered 393 and McLaren 367.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time of all with his new teammate, George Russell, second. But the team’s new number two quickly declared: “Lap time-wise, I don’t think it’s representative at all. Even though we are top of the timesheets, I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

Until their appearance at the top of the time sheets, it was Ferrari and McLaren that had impressed during the first two days of testing. Unquestionably, the picture is clouded by the choice of tyre compounds all teams took during the three days of testing.

Latest F1 Odds Offers Little Hope For the ‘Dogs’

The latest F1 World Championship betting sees Lewis Hamilton trading as 6/4 favourite to take the 2022 title. Max Verstappen follows at 3/1, George Russell is 6/1 and Charles Leclerc 8/1. If the odds are correct, 2022 is not going to represent a changing of the guard.

If you were expecting a radical change to 2021’s results – and if the bookmakers are correct – you will be disappointed.

William Hill have introduced a market on ‘Without the top four’. It means, should you choose to ignore both Mercedes and Red Bull drivers in the 2022 championship you can back Leclerc at 11/10. His teammate, Carlos Sainz, is 2/1 and Lando Norris, racing for McLaren, is 3/1.

Here the 18/1 about Daniel Ricciardo could offer some great value. Unlike teammate Lando Norris, the Australian is a proven Formula 1 winner. He is also a winner in a McLaren. The Australian may have struggled for much of 2021, but the new heavier aerodynamic cars may suit his driving style and it seems inconceivable he is a full 15 points bigger in the betting than his garage companion. On value grounds this has to be considered a good F1 bet and should be supported.

* F1 odds quoted correct at the time of article publication. All betting odds subject to changes.