'Very surprised': Shock twist after sacking of Russian F1 driver

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Pictured left to right, Russian former F1 driver Nikita Mazepin and Dane Kevin Magnussen.
Kevin Magnussen (right) has returned to Haas in place of sacked Russian driver, Nikita Mazepin. Pic: Getty/Twitter

American Formula One team Haas has announced that Dane Kevin Magnussen is making a sensational return to the sport to take the place of Nikita Mazepin - the Russian driver sacked as a result of his country's invasion in Ukraine.

Haas said 29-year-old Magnussen had signed a "multi-year contract agreement" and the Dane will drive in the official pre-season test at Bahrain from Thursday to Saturday.

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"I'm delighted to welcome Kevin Magnussen back to Haas F1 Team," said Guenther Steiner, the Haas team boss.

"When looking for a driver who could bring value to the team, not to mention a wealth of Formula 1 experience, Kevin was a straightforward decision for us."

Steiner had just recently said that Brazilian reserve Pietro Fittipaldi would get the "first call" to replace Mazepin, with even Magnussen admitting he was shocked to be making his F1 comeback, having left Haas after the 2020 season.

"I was obviously very surprised but equally very excited to receive the call from Haas F1 Team," said Magnussen.

"I was looking in a different direction regarding my commitments for 2022 but the opportunity to return to compete in Formula 1, and with a team I know extremely well, was simply too appealing."

Seen here, Kevin Magnussen during his previous stint racing with the Haas F1 team.
Kevin Magnussen returns to Haas after leaving the F1 team at the end of the 2020 season. Pic: Getty

Magnussen, a veteran of 119 career Formula One starts - with a podium finish on his debut in 2014 - raced for Haas between 2017-2020 after stints with McLaren and Renault.

He scored a career-high ninth finish in the driver world championship with Haas in 2018.

Magnussen was dropped by Haas, along with Romain Grosjean, and replaced by Mazepin and Mick Schumacher for the start of last season.

Mazepin's future was already uncertain after Haas removed branding for Uralkali, a Russian potash producer, from their car on the last day of the Barcelona test last week in the wake of Russia's February 24 invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

The driver's place at Haas was only guaranteed by the sponsorship deal between Haas and Uralkali.

Mazepin made his debut last season in an all-rookie line-up with Schumacher.

Nikita Mazepin sacked after Russia's invasion of Ukraine

The only Russian on the grid, he would have been allowed to race in a neutral capacity, according to a decision by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council.

But his participation in individual races would have been in doubt, especially after Motorsport UK banned Russian and Belarusian license holders from competing in the country, raising the prospect of other national motorsport federations doing the same.

FIS had followed up Friday 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."

Saying he was "very disappointed" by the decision, 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," added Mazepin, announcing more comments in the next days.

His ousting from Haas could mark the end of his career.

F1 on Thursday said it will no longer race in Russia after terminating its Russian Grand Prix contract, originally set to expire in 2025.

The sport had already called off its 2022 race in the country.

Formula One will hold its final pre-season test in Bahrain from March 10 to 12.

The season gets underway in the island kingdom on March 20.

with agencies

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