Facing a social media backlash with almost every post relating to Nikita Mazepin, Guenther Steiner says the Haas team are well aware there is still a “strong” reaction to the Russian driver.
Last year, Mazepin courted controversy when he posted a video of himself groping a female in the back of a car.
The then Formula 2 driver immediately apologised, only to later delete said apology.
The #SayNoToMazepin hashtag became a regular trend in response to any tweets Haas posted, but the team ultimately decided to stick with the driver.
Almost three months after that video, Haas are still dealing with angry fans.
Posting photos on Thursday of the Russian driver’s visit to the team’s factory, fans responded with “What is he doing here? Why isn’t he out of the team yet?” while others questioned Haas’ morals in all of this.
Steiner again backed his driver, insisting that while fans are entitled to their own opinions he feels Mazepin has learned.
“Having Nikita at the factory was good for us all as it means we are getting closer to the start of the season, frankly,” the team boss told RACER.
“We continue to have dialogue with Nikita about many things, including what happened at the end of last season.
“He took immediate responsibility for his actions — he apologised. He’s learned from this experience, he’s undoubtedly been chastened by it, and he will apply that moving forward in his Formula 1 career.
“The response on social media towards him is still strong, we are naturally aware of that via our team posts.
“While respecting that people are entitled to voice their opinions, no matter how vigorous, as a team we feel we have provided Nikita with the best environment to learn from this and now with Bahrain fast approaching, the opportunity to concentrate on the season ahead.”
Day one – DONE ✅#HaasF1 @nikita_mazepin pic.twitter.com/LmBOOHiVEW
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) February 17, 2021
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Team owner Gene Haas is also hoping Mazepin has learned his lesson.
“Our response to it was I think Guenther told him he was an idiot and you can’t do things like that and it was totally unacceptable,” said the American.
“I think he got a lot of criticism from all sides that just piled on him — he’s 21 years old, for a young man the deluge of criticism must have been difficult to take, so I’m hoping it’s a good lesson learned.
“We’ll just have to see how that goes. The social media response from all kinds of groups was extremely strong, wanting us to execute him for what he did, but that didn’t feel like the right course either.”
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