Brutal twist for Russian billionaire as Kevin Magnussen stuns F1

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·Sports Editor
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Kevin Magnussen, pictured here at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Kevin Magnussen made the most of his late call-up after Dmitry and Nikita Mazepin were dumped by Haas. Image: Getty

Kevin Magnussen stunned the F1 world on Sunday at the Bahrain Grand Prix while also rubbing salt into the wounds of dumped Haas driver Nikita Mazepin and his billionaire father.

Magnussen was a late replacement for Mazepin when Haas decided they couldn't keep the Russian driver on amid his country's invasion of Ukraine.

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Haas also made the staggering decision to drop Uralkali as the team’s major sponsor because it is owned by Mazepin's father Dmitry.

Russian tycoon Dmitry in said to be in the "closest circle to Vladimir Putin" and has been sanctioned by a number of countries for his links to the Russian President.

So with the Mazepins out of the picture, Haas called on Magnussen (who they dropped after the 2020 season) for a sensational return.

And the Danish driver certainly didn't disappoint at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, stunning the field to finish fifth.

“The craziness just continues,” Magnussen said after a weekend in which he also qualified seventh, saying he was "lost for words".

“We had a really good race and the car was good all the way through.”

Haas boss Guenther Steiner said: “A very good day for us today, it’s good to be back for the whole team.

“They’ve done a fantastic job, not just today but for the last two years. Everyone kept their head high and just got ready for the moment that we would have a good car.

"When that moment came, everyone did their part and I’m very proud of them, and they can be proud of themselves.”

Kevin Magnussen, pictured here in action at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Kevin Magnussen finished fifth at the Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Nikita Mazepin sensationally sacked by Haas

Mazepin had already been banned from competing in the British Grand Prix, when Motorsport UK broke ranks with the FIA and announced no Russian or Belarusian-licensed entries would be allowed to compete.

FIA's World Motor Sport Council had followed by saying that Russians and Belarusians must sign a Driver Commitment form which included they can not "express any support (direct or indirect) for the Russian and/or Belarusian activities in respect of Ukraine."

Mazepin said in an Instagram statement he had been willing to accept these conditions but that this was "completely ignored and no process was followed in this unilateral step".

"To those who have tried to understand, my eternal thanks. I have treasured my time in F1 and genuinely hope we can all be together again in better times," he said.

Dmitry and Nikita Mazepin, pictured here at the Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race in Sochi in 2020.
Dmitry and Nikita Mazepin at the Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race in Sochi in 2020. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mazepin made his debut last season in an all-rookie line-up alongside Mick Schumacher, but his place on the team was only guaranteed by the sponsorship deal between Haas and Uralkali.

On Sunday, Max Verstappen's title defence began in extraordinary scenes as his Red Bull car retired just laps from the end of the season-opening race.

Ferrari clinched a 1-2 finish with Charles Leclerc winning the race, almost six seconds ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz.

Lewis Hamilton, who lost the title so painfully to Verstappen in 2021, enjoyed better luck this time with an unexpected third-place finish.

“The faster I was going, I could barely steer (and) then suddenly I had to retire, everything just switched off," Verstappen said.

"It looked like a fuel pump issue, there was no fuel coming to the engine. It’s very painful for the team (and) we need to look into everything.”

Moments later he was in the team garage, soon followed by teammate Sergio Perez, as Red Bull's race dramatically collapsed.

with agencies

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