KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - With new drivers, new sponsors, and a new look to their cars, the Kannapolis-based Haas F1 Team is ready to roll for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship campaign.
Last season was a challenging campaign for Uralkali Haas F1 Team and Formula 1 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.
“I think we’ve got a few things to keep us motivated through the year,” said Team Principal Guenther Steiner. “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.”
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, partaking in FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, before running in the young driver test.
“My experience with the team has been good,” said Schumacher. “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.”
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.
“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,” said Mazepin.
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.
Three practice sessions, each now just one hour in length, will take place across Friday and Saturday, building into the qualifying session that will set the grid for the 57-lap race. The Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled for Sunday at 18:00 local (16:00 GMT/11:00 EST).
Haas F1 Team contributed to this story.