The relationship between Haas F1 and their Russian sponsor and driver became untenable after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the owner of the United States-based Formula One team said.
Gene Haas also said his team was financially stable despite the decision on Saturday to cut ties with Russian driver Nikita Mazepin and sponsor Uralkali.
The Russian company is owned by Mazepin’s father, Dmitry Mazepin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There was a lot of intense criticism about the Ukrainian invasion and it was just getting overwhelming. We can’t deal with all that, our other sponsors can’t deal with all that,” Haas told The Associated Press on the starting grid at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Logos for Haas Automation, the CNC machine tool manufacturing company Haas founded, will be on his two cars at this week’s F1 test in Bahrain.
Haas said reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi will fill Mazepin’s seat in Bahrain, but he wasn’t clear on a permanent replacement.
“We’re in the process of looking at several candidates, we’ll see who is available and what we have to deal with, but we’ll have somebody by Wednesday,” Haas said.
“Pietro will definitely be in it, that’s what he’s for, he’s the test driver.”
Fittipaldi is the grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi and ran two races for Haas in 2020 as the replacement for injured driver Romain Grosjean.
The 25-year-old was born in Miami and holds dual citizenship in Brazil and the US.
But just because Haas said Fittipaldi will be in the car in Bahrain, that does not mean he’ll be teammates this year with Mick Schumacher.
“I think we’re looking. I think we’d obviously like to get someone with a bit more actual experience,” Haas told the AP.
“We just have to see what’s available.”
Haas also insisted that his CNC company has always been the primary source of sponsorship for the F1 team and that Uralkali was only “the title sponsor” in 2021 when both F1 cars were branded in the colours of the Russian flag.
“Haas has always been the major, primary sponsor, I don’t know why people said it became a Russian team. Haas Automation was always on the car,” he said.