One team that seems to always attract headlines is the HAAS F1 team. There was Romain Grosjean’s horrific crash last year in Bahrain and rookie driver Nikita Mazepin’s social media faux pas. Now they’ve done it again, with the launch of their 2021 car, the VF-21.
Albeit this time, it has something to do with the VF-21’s colorway. The new scheme reflects the new partnership with title sponsor Uralkali, a Russian fertilizer company part-owned by Mazepin’s father. The team chose to adopt the colors of the Russian Flag and feature an image alluding to the flag itself for the upcoming season.
While national flags on cars shouldn’t be out of the ordinary, the VF-21’s colors might violate a judgment made by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). The punishment comes after the CAS announced last December, banning Russian athletes from competing in world championship events for the next two years.
CAS’s ruling came after the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) launched an investigation into allegations that Russia’s athletes were doping (taking performance enhancement drugs) during the 2014 Winter Olympics. WADA’s investigations found the Russians guilty of violating anti-doping rules, ultimately leading them to be banned for some time.
In an even more damning move, the Russian Automobile Federation confirmed in February that the CAS’s ruling extended to the FIA’s Championships. That means Nikita Mazepin is unable to compete under the Russian flag.
The similarity of the VF-21’s colorway caused the WADA to look into the matter, although Haas team principal Gunther Steiner said the team didn’t violate anything. "Obviously we cannot use the Russian flag as the Russian flag, but you can use colors on a car. In the end, it's the athlete which cannot display the Russian flag and not the team. The team is an American team," said Haas F1 boss Gunther Steiner.
As if things weren’t already complicated for the team, they also revealed that the VF-21 is a mild update to 2020’s car. They chose to focus all development for 2022, meaning 2021 might be another tough year for the team.
It’s not all bad news though, one glimmer of hope would be how rookie driver Mick Schumacher (son of F1 legend Michael) fairs this year. Given that the car he’ll be piloting might not be competitive, it’ll be interesting to see if he can live up to his father's name. Also, Nikita Mazepin will be watched by all after his social media blunder.
With all of these going on in Haas, it might be enough for a full episode of Drive To Survive Season 4.