Mazepin and Schumacher were plucked out of Formula 2 to replace Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen at the underperforming Haas outfit, which had severely compromised the 2021 season to focus on the new 2022 car.
While Schumacher and Mazepin generally brought up the rear of the field in a car that was barely developed from its 2020 origins, and didn’t contest for points, they still fought each other hard to try and win the intra-team battle, which led to several on-track incidents.
Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com, Mazepin admits he and Schumacher went through “difficult times” but says the working relationship has now normalised as the pair “do what is necessary for the team”.
When asked whether the tension with his teammate was blown out of proportion by fans and media, Mazepin replied: “I’m not sure it was blown out of proportion. I think there were some difficult times when he was learning [about] me, I was learning [about] him.
“Every time I go out there, I want to be the car finishing in front, and I’ve always wanted that. And I will never stop wanting that until I leave that paddock and hang my pass on a wall.
“But now it’s a very neutral relationship that doesn’t have any highs and any lows, and it’s just consistent. And that’s the only way to achieve good results in this sport.”
Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
While Mazepin admitted “it is fair to say” he and Schumacher are not exactly friends, he realises the two youngsters must work together the drive the team forward and strive to reduce on-track clashes.
“I’m here to win races. I know that’s probably not going to happen in the foreseeable future but the way to make it happen is to get the best car you can, and to set it up in the fastest way possible. And that takes two people to do it,” he explained.
“I’m sure Mick has exactly the same thoughts, ambitions and goals in his mindset, so we do what is necessary for the team. And I actually think we always try with both sides of the garage to go a bit beyond in achieving those goals.
“Of course, you have to slightly wind down your approach, be more careful when you’re fighting with a teammate because in F1 it sort of is really critical if anything happens between the two cars from the same team.
“But at the end of the day, we are here for Nikita Mazepin who races from Russia, and the other side is such and such from whichever country.
“I’m living my own life and I want to make my own life the best I can, and I want to make sure that I have as many trophies [as possible] in my house from F1 or from any other series before I go into doing something else.
So yes, I’m a team player, but if I have to give up, I will never do [it].”