The invasion of Russia to Ukraine triggered a conflict between the Haas team and the sponsor Uralkali. On March 5, a week before the second pre-season rehearsals carried out by the Formula 1 in 2022, on the Sakhir circuit, Bahrain, the American team broke ties with Nikita Mazepin and the Russian sponsor, whose main shareholder is Dmitry Mazepin, the father of the pilot. The release caused the potash fertilizer company to request the reimbursement of the 12,000,000 euros he paid for the current campaign, but from headquarters in North Carolina, the response was resounding: Haas refuses to return the number and also requested a compensation for loss of earnings in the amount of 7,800,000 euros.
The battle of the millions had its first episode during the Barcelona tests, when Haas decided to remove the colors of the Russian flag with which Uralkali is identified on its cars, boxes and trucks. The measure was taken the day after the start of the war in Ukraine – which occurred on February 24 – as the team watched closely the reactions of Formula 1 and the International Automobile Federation (FIA). This adhered to the veto of other sporting federations to Russian teams, but accepted that drivers from that country compete under the flag of the FIA itself. The cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix, which had a contract until 2025, was another favorable sign that the businessman was spying on Gene Haas to dissolve the deal that began to weave in 2020, was consolidated in 2021 and was destroyed this season.
In the letter he sent to Uralkali, Haas insisted that he had the right to break the agreement, because one of the clauses prescribed that the Russian company should not insult, challenge, ridicule or harm the reputation or image of the team. “According to academic legal and case law experts, the party that suspends an agreement due to the other party’s breach is not obligated to return what was received for that agreement. The request for payment of 12,000,000 euros is unfounded and is rejected“, Indicates the press release published by the American portal Motorsport.com.
Among the requests made by Haas after the end of the link is the right to compensation for loss of profit which would have occurred if the agreement with Uralkali had continued and is estimated at 7,800,000 euros. The team also does not intend to comply with a clause in the original contract to deliver one of the cars used by Mazepin last year if it does not pay the amount of the indemnity.
The debt swap was initiated by Uralkali on March 9. The Russian giant has reserved the right to file a claim for damages and seek reimbursement of the contribution, stressing that Haas’s decision to unilaterally cancel the contract was unacceptable. “Sport must always be free from politics and pressure from external factors. Most of the sponsors’ money for the 2022 season was transferred before the first race of the calendar and Haas did not respect of their obligations,” said their letter, which stated that this reimbursement money would be used by the foundation to support the athletes. We compete as onecreated by Nikita Mazepin.
The family traces uncomfortable months in their numbers due to the seizure operations of Russian tycoons and oligarchs carried out in Italy by the Guardia di Finanza. A building complex located in Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda (north-west Sardinia), which belongs to Nikita and Dmitry Mazepin, was seized preventively. The mansion is worth 105 million euros.
Mazepin’s entry into F. 1, which occurred in 2021 at the age of 22, hit the headlines as soon as his place was confirmed, even if his behavior nearly blew up the case, when a video went viral in which the Russian groped a young woman. The scandal was diluted between the apologies of the young man and a warning from the Haas team, for inappropriate conduct.
The relationship with his garage partner, Mick Schumacher – son of seven-time champion Michael – was strained: firstly, Mazepin pointed out that the German had privileges, such as access to the Ferrari simulator as part of the Ferrari Drivers’ Academy, which allowed him to be better prepared. In Baku, the conflict began on the track and Schumacher did not keep silent: “Do you want us to kill each other?” He questioned the maneuver in which he locked himself against a wall as soon as they crossed the finish line in Azerbaijan. The risk was repeated in Zandvoort, the Netherlands, when the Russian tried a dangerous maneuver on the straight. And in Monza the friction returned, for which Mazepin received a 5-second penalty.