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Nikita Mazepin
Nikita Mazepin

Nikita Mazepin looks ahead to pre-season testing in Bahrain, as the rookie prepares for his first season in Formula 1 with Uralkali Haas F1 Team.

Walking into the paddock in Bahrain as one of the 20 drivers competing in Formula 1 this season - it’s obviously the realization of a dream and a significant moment in your career, but is it something you’ve visualized in the past or do you keep those emotions firmly in check and take it one day at a time?

“This is going to be an amazing moment that I’ve waited for the best part of my life. The reason I love my job is that I get to drive the fastest cars in the world together with those 19 drivers on the track. I haven’t particularly visualized walking into the paddock but getting into the car before my first test day in a new car will be a special moment. I have definitely visualized the thrill of that process many times when it will really sink in that I am in F1, driving with the best of the best. So many emotions around it – very focused on making the most of this year, of rising to the many challenges of this unique time in the sport and actually trying to really appreciate every single moment of my rookie season. It’s hard to overestimate my sense of anticipation.”

 

With just a day and a half of testing scheduled for you in the VF-21 – what are your immediate priorities in terms of what you can extract from the test?

“Obviously, the testing time has been significantly reduced this year compared to other years and this makes everything that is already challenging for a rookie more challenging. Every 10 minutes of a test day will be much more valuable for us. So, the key objective is to get up to that limit without overstepping it. The car is going to be new, so hoping for a little luck so as not to lose any track time. I need to get as comfortable in the car as time permits. We have a lot of new components in the car that are tailored to me, which take some getting used to. I haven’t driven a Ferrari-powered car before, so I need to learn controls and get to grips with the new machinery. I’ve been working hard over the winter. It seems like I’ve had a thousand Zoom calls with the team engineers learning the positions of the steering wheel and studying all the adjustable buttons. I’ve also requested some tailored components such as heel rest and seat for me in the car based on my body, so it will be interesting to see how everything feels in motion, not just in the factory.”

 

What are your thoughts on Bahrain International Circuit as a test venue? What stands out with regards to the characteristics of the track and how much of the test focus will be looking ahead to the Bahrain Grand Prix?

“Bahrain is a very good test track. You have stable weather, so there’s little risk of losing track time due to cold weather this time of year. It also offers a variety of high speed and slow speed turns which will be a great test for the car setup and at the same time the track surface is very abrasive, which makes the tires degrade much faster in long runs compared to other circuits. This will make for a good 360 evaluation of the car and it will be an excellent opportunity to see where we stand going into the 23 races ahead.”

 

Building relations within the team and working practices have undoubtedly been harder due to travel restrictions over the winter – you were only recently able to attend seat-fits in Banbury for example. What specifically have you been able to work on with the team remotely ahead of your arrival in Bahrain?

“There are two key areas. First, it’s been about the seat fit and getting me comfortable in the car. It’s going to be a long year and if the fit isn’t right to the body, it could be a painful experience over a race distance.  Another thing is that this is a totally different setup in terms of steering wheel layout, setup names and the whole operations side of things – these are all quite different to what I was exposed to driving F1 cars in the past. Developing a good working relationship with the engineers and understanding the way they like to work and how best to give each other necessary feedback has been a priority. I can say that when I finally got to meet some of the team face to face at the seat fitting, it was really comfortable feeling. We have a great group of professionals at the team and I look forward to the challenge together with them.”

 

With a longer calendar and longer races than you’ve faced before in Formula 2, what elements of your conditioning program have you focused on ahead of your Formula 1 debut? Did you allow yourself any rest after the 2020 Formula 2 season or did you focus immediately on preparations for Formula 1 – knowing there’s a physically more intense season ahead?

“It’s important to understand that mentally it’s going to be a completely different challenge than in previous seasons because we have 23 race weekends in the year – which is not something I’m really used to. I’ve never had to fly so much or cross so many time zones. The races are longer, more laps, more physical demands – all of which require additional attention. I’ve been very focused on cardiovascular, strength and neck training ahead of the 2021 season to be in top shape to meet the physical demands. My team has given me a good 10 days after Bahrain to regroup and get myself mentally ready for the season ahead.” 

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