Perez shows so-called ‘pay drivers’ like Mazepin can succeed in F1 – Steiner

2020 F1 season

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Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has dismissed criticism of his decision to sign Nikita Mazepin for the 2021 F1 season.

Billionare Dmitry Mazepin has bankrolled his son’s motorsport career. While the 21-year-old has not won a major junior category championship, he is third in the F2 points at present and has an outside chance of winning the title this weekend.

He placed second in GP3 two years ago behind team mate and champion Anthoine Hubert, but ahead of fellow ART drivers Callum Ilott and Jake Hughes.

Steiner said new drivers should not be judged on the basis of whether they bring financial backing. He pointed out other F1 drivers have been supported by wealthy benefactors, sponsors or teams.

Mazepin won twice in F2 this year
“I always go back to this, that there is always these ‘paying drivers’ coming,” said Steiner. “I mean, there’s a lot of drivers which get into F1 thanks to financial backing.

“There is very good drivers in F1 which in the beginning brought a sponsor. The first one to call is Checo [Perez]. Checo came to F1, everyone said ‘oh he is a pay driver’. Look at Checo now, he finishes on the podium, he’s doing a good job.

George Russell for me is one of the best drivers. Without the help of Mercedes, he would not be anywhere. There’s a lot of them there. Lance Stroll, he was on the podium. If they are good in F2 and they have a sponsor, that’s a perfect solution.”

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Past Formula 1 champions such as Niki Lauda also paid for their first drives in Formula 1, Steiner pointed out.

“When I spoke with Niki a long time ago he said ‘I made it into F1 thanks to a bank which sponsored me so I could go and buy a drive’, I think it was with BRM at time. This is old, he was [three times] world champion.”

Teams will naturally prefer talented drivers if they also bring backing, said Steiner.

“If you want to see it as a positive or negative, it’s your angle of how you want to look at it. If somebody is good and he has a financial backer for sure he’s got a better chance than somebody who is the same good and has no financial backer. I mean, why would you choose that one with no financial backing?

“As long as they’re good in F1 and Nikita is lying third at the moment so I cannot doubt him, what else do you need to do?”

Steiner has kept a close eye on Mazepin’s progress in F2 this year, which has included two wins, plus one ‘on-the-road’ victory which he lost due to a penalty.

“I followed him I would say the whole season this year what he was doing. For sure he had a difficult start. Without the difficult start he would be fighting for the championship. So that is what I see. I can’t see any more than that. Results always talk.”

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  • 24 comments on “Perez shows so-called ‘pay drivers’ like Mazepin can succeed in F1 – Steiner”

    1. Off course Steiner is rigth that hardly any driver gets to F1 without having found some backers along the way.

      And yeah, some turn out to be quite a solid driver who is able to win races if given the right car. And some turn out to be revelations, champions, like Schumacher or Lauda. And then we have those that have talent, show bouts of speed, but are brought into F1 too soon and struggle to perform consistently (Stroll would be an example). And we have those that just do a decent job to fill the field (Latifi? Although who knows in a more decent car?). And in the past we have had completely hopeless drivers entering as pay drivers as well.

      I am sure that Mazepin will probably be somewhere between Stroll and Perez level, likely not too far of the ability of Magnussen and Grosjean, but off course without the experience. So it will take time.

      1. What has Latifi done to deserve his place in F1? We complain when Russel ‘throws points away’ because he runs inside of top 10 from time to time. Latifi is so far behind we don’t even expect him to have an outside chance of scoring points. An absolute disgrace to F1.

        1. @paeschli if you look at the time difference between Latifi and Russell in a number of races, you might be surprised that there are several occasions where Latifi hasn’t been that far behind Russell at the end of the race.

          To pick some examples, Styria saw him finish only 4 seconds behind Russell, the British GP saw him about 3 seconds behind and the Spanish GP only 8 seconds behind; in Imola or Bahrain, Latifi was still within 8-9 seconds of Russell before the late safety cars in those races.

          Now, there have been a number of races where retirements mean we don’t know how the full race would have played out, but there’s only really been two races where Russell finished significantly ahead of Latifi: the Portuguese GP and the Turkish GP.

          I’m not saying that Latifi is a stunning driver, but he’s not been that far off Russell’s pace in race trim – he’s definitely not doing an Albon in terms of performance relative to his team mate.

          1. Styria saw him finish only 4 seconds behind Russell, the British GP saw him about 3 seconds behind and the Spanish GP only 8 seconds behind; in Imola or Bahrain, Latifi was still within 8-9 seconds of Russell before the late safety cars in those races.

            yep and 10 seconds behind him was i on my bike with a flat tire…

            1. erikje, you seem to be being fatuous for the sake of being fatuous – when compared to quite how badly some drivers are underperforming on the grid, for a driver who is dismissed as a pay driver, Latifi is a fair bit more competitive against his team mate than he is being given credit for.

    2. If I rolled my eyes any harder they’d detach and roll across the room

      1. If I rolled my eyes any harder, they would generate enough energy to be used in the new F1 powet unit.

    3. I think people slightly exaggerate the importance of the driver in F1. In reality it’s better to have a driver who’s a few tenths slower if it means money can go into making the car seconds faster. Haas is a good example, two paid drivers that can score podiums made to look like amateurs in a car done on the cheap.

    4. As for Perez prior F1:

      ´05: 14th, Formula BMW
      ‘06: 6th, Formula BMW
      ‘07: 1st, British F3 National Class
      ´08: 4th, British F3
      ‘09: 7th, GP2 Asia
      ‘09: 12th, GP2
      ´10: 2nd, GP2 Series

      1. Yea the year he won the national class in ’07, the official overall championship was won by Marko Asmer and the year he came 2nd in GP2 was won by Pastor Maldonado, what’s your point? It is a great accolade to win the championships when you are coming up the ranks but the results depend on who you grow up with. Everyone knows that Mazepin is not the legendary driver of his generation but he has potential is what the article is saying. Grosjean was a child protege who won almost every championship growing up that didn’t make him the greatest driver of his generation in F1.

        1. I already forgot that Pastor won in 2010!

        2. Marko Asmer was a good driver, who simply ran out of money to go further. 2010 was not a good year for GP2, I will admit (a lot of the stronger talent having made the F1 grid, gone to Renault World Series 3.5 or simply in their rookie year back when many champions needed 2 attempts in GP2).

      2. Not to mention those gp2 results were achieved in a not so good team

      3. @jeff1s Not an outstanding pre-F1 career, but not bad. Mazepin’s isn’t that much worse. Junior careers *kind of* don’t matter, being in F1 is very different. Just because someone drives brilliantly in junior championships, it doesn’t guarantee that they will be good in F1 (Vandoorne), and even after that if they’re great in small teams, they can’t necessarily turn that into results in top teams (Gasly). Yet Perez wasn’t considered the greatest talent before F1, but his driving suits F1 cars much better than most, so he brings big results in the teams he drives for. Could he be great in a top car? We’ll see (probably, TBA). Can Mazepin be good in a small F1 team? We’ll see.

        It seems that it’s relatively easy for most junior category drivers nowadays to jump into an F1 car, and bring out 90-95 percent from it. But only a few can get to 99-100 percent, and before they’re given a chance, we just don’t know how they will perform.
        (Mazepin’s off track temper is a much bigger issue for most people I think, but his results are not embarrassing if that’s what you’re trying to suggest)

      4. What’s your point ? That he alone has scored more points than stroll and Vettel together in 2020 or that with a more capable team in strategy and maintenance he would have many more podiums and points this year ?
        He is a favorite for 4th in WDC and doing so will bring money not only with sponsors but also with WCC prize, a dream come true for any Team Boss !

    5. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
      1st December 2020, 16:33

      We all want the best drivers, but the teams run on money, not principles and goodwill, so I don’t blame them for taking money.

      1. Exactly. Of what use is it having the best driver if you then can’t compete.

    6. David Balcazar
      1st December 2020, 16:52

      It’s no the same to have financial backing on a future talent than to have daddy’s money as backup. Neither of that guarantee you became a top driver, but I think that the difference is that when you have sponsors, yo have to deliver, otherwise they put their money on other driver, but in the case of daddy’s money (Stroll), the deliver came as a secondary issue.
      Mazepin could be in the second category, but it’s too early to know. I’m happy money still arrives to F1 and specially on low budgets teams, but I think Steiner puts on the same bowl all the drivers, because I don’t know any driver since I watch F1 who hasn’t have mony backup to arrive to F1.

      1. Yes, this is what I wanted to say too, however in the case of stroll I think yes, he may have come in f1 sooner than normal because of his father’s money, however now he’s in f1 on merit imo given the recent performances, he’s a midfield driver like many others, and everyone needs money to start, the difference is the top drivers like schumacher, hamilton etc. will set the world alight their first season, clearing any doubts on their ability faster than stroll or than drivers who never shook off the pay driver tag.

    7. Nothing wrong with drivers paying for their drives, doesn’t Fernando Alonso bring sponsorship money with him wherever he drive? I am thinking Telephonica and other Spanish companies that follow him around.

    8. Obviously, Mr Haas didn’t want to spend more and told to find another McDuck.
      To sell the team to that new sponsor a few years later.
      That’s all.

      Mazepin will be just another latiffi. I bet.

    9. Deyanira Gaona
      1st December 2020, 22:46

      It’s not the same thing, having sponsors as having dad’s money. In the first they have to be good at what they do to have that money, whereas in the second is obviously not important. And it can affect the sport in the long run… cause we fans want to watch the best drivers racing! And believe me, we can tell who is, and who isn’t!

    10. Perez shows pay drivers can succeed in F1, but that’s not news, as Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda previously proved.

      What we want to know is whether someone like Mazepin, who seems like Verstappen without the necessary skill, can make a success of it, especially given he’s going to a less successful team than Max, that is in less of a position to support him than Toro Rosso was for Max, and where (unlike Max), there’s an implicit #2 seat situation due to the team-mate being likely to be a lot better.

      Fiery-tempered, strong-willed drivers can succeed in F1 but not if that’s the main thing going for them. Likewise with pay drivers. However, I’ve seen nothing to suggest Nikita Mazepin has anything going for him but fiery temper, strong will and money – which I doubt very much will prevail in this situation.

    11. Perez in a better team, strategy and power unit maintenance wise, should have 2 or 3 podiums more this season, and third WCC and 4 WDC in the pocket even without a team mate ….. unfortunately money don’t alway buy good team assistance

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