Nikita Mazepin has explained why he broke a 'gentleman's agreement' in qualifying for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, potentially compromising the laps of other drivers.
The Russian passed other drivers when they were on the final sector of their out lap, breaking the informal agreement that drivers should not overtake each other when preparing for their final flying lap. Following the controversy, Mazepin has defended his actions.
"I am the team’s driver," Mazepin explained after qualifying. "We have radio intercom, and I am instructed to do what I’m told. I crossed the start-finish line with two seconds left under my belt, otherwise I would have got a red flag. There was no time to wait.
"I was obviously in the queue like everyone else, but I’ve been told that if I don’t go now, the session’s over. And what else do I have to do? I have to follow what the team tells me, because that’s my job. So I’m sorry if somebody is unhappy about it, but I follow my engineer’s advice."
It was not an ideal first qualifying session for Mazepin on his debut Formula 1 weekend. After overtaking other drivers to start his final lap, the Haas racer spun at the first corner which brought out the yellow flags, and he also had a spin earlier in the session.
Mazepin says that the spins happened as a result of trying to fix a brake-by-wire problem.
"I had an electronic issue called BBW failure towards the end, which we’re still looking into," the rookie explained. "It’s basically like losing the front end of the brakes and it’s just you only have the rears. Essentially the brakes don’t work the same. It’s like pulling the handbrake going in to a corner so I turned around, unfortunately."
Mazepin ended his first F1 qualifying session in last place, one spot behind teammate Mick Schumacher.