Formula One rookie Nikita Mazepin believes he has done enough to move on from the controversy surrounding his name and, in his first interview since the incident in December, insisted he has learned from what happened.
Haas driver Mazepin, 21, posted a video to his Instagram on Dec. 9 which showed him touching a woman in the back of a car. The video was promptly deleted, but captured and circulated on social media.
Haas condemned the video as “abhorrent” and Mazepin issued an apology. Formula One and racing’s governing body, the FIA, did not implement any further action, leaving the responsibility for doing so with Haas.
Haas released a statement saying it dealt with the matter internally.
ESPN understands Mazepin was not sent on an awareness course, as was speculated at the time. When approached for comment, Haas refered back to its original statement on the matter.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Mazepin talked about the matter publicly for the first time.
“First of all it’s very important to say that my actions in December about the whole incident were incorrect,” Mazepin told ESPN. “I do take the full responsibility for it.
“It was a very big learning experience and I can confidently say that I’m much further in my knowledge on this kind of matter than I used to be, so there’s a small bit of positivity there.”
Mazepin also said he has not had any contact with the woman since the incident.
The hashtag #WeSayNoToMazepin has trended on Twitter whenever Haas has shared content of the Russian driver in the weeks since. Mazepin claimed he has learned from the experience but, when given the chance to explain further, did not elaborate on how he has done this.
When asked what steps he has taken to educate himself, Mazepin replied: “I totally understand they are correct in their feelings and that I was not correct with my actions.
“I’m not proud of it. It’s important to progress.”
The Russian driver believes his actions on the race track will be enough to redeem his reputation in the eyes of fans.
“The people who are with me over the past 21 years know who I am. It’s very difficult to be fake for people and I’m far from that.
“I will be myself outside of the track, like I’ve been. I’ve had my ups and my lows, but that’s part of life. I think the racing should do the speaking, mostly.
“I believe I’m a very good racer on track, I believe I’m a fast racer. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge of showing people who might not like me at the moment that I have great racing skills, that hopefully change perception of me.”
The F1 season will start with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28.