Schumacher says he needs to rebuild trust with Mazepin after ‘confusing’ last lap scrap in Baku
Mick Schumacher arrived at the French Grand Prix saying he needed to rebuild trust in his Haas team mate Nikita Mazepin, following a dramatic last-lap incident between the pair at the previous race in Baku. But Mazepin retorted to the media there had been “no incident”, with the Russian adding that his team mate shouldn’t expect any favours from him on-track going forward.
Mazepin was leading Schumacher on the final lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as the pair were on the flat-out blast from Turn 16 to the finish line. But with Schumacher gaining on his team mate and attempting to make a pass down the right-hand side, Mazepin appeared to jink his car over to the right to block Schumacher.
Although the German was nearly squeezed into the wall, he was able to make it past before asking angrily on team radio after the race if Mazepin was trying to "kill" him. But although Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner said after the Azerbaijan race that the air had been cleared, both drivers appeared at odds over the incident when they faced the media ahead of the French Grand Prix.
“Obviously you have to race with him,” said Schumacher, when asked if he still had trust in his team mate. “I think trust is built and it for sure can be built again. Obviously right now, I don't really know what to expect in one vs one, but at the end as well, I'm sure that after the talks we had with the team, everything should be in order to build up onto that trust again.
“In the moment it was rather confusing, in a way, because I was not expecting it at all, especially between teams mates,” Schumacher added. “Obviously I understand it's a last lap, we all fight, but if you come in such a tow, you have all that's left in terms of battery and then you use everything and there's no stopping you, the only way you stop somebody is by scaring them or pushing them into the wall and obviously he tried to do that.
“I, in fairness, kept my foot down, so I got by him anyways, but still I think that it was unexpected from my side and I think that's why I had such a strong reaction to it afterwards.”
For his part, Mazepin intimated that Schumacher had overreacted to a simple miscommunication between team mates, telling the media: “There was no incident. Both cars returned to the pits with front wings and the paint job was as polished as it was just before the race so I would like to look at that in a pretty positive way.
“I think we've had a bit of a misunderstanding between us,” he added. “I thought he would choose the inside line and then he chose the outside line, and when I saw that he committed to it, I backed out of it, because in the end, we're not fighting for any points and the team's result is the priority for me.
“So I think we have a positive vibe, if I can call it like this in the team. It has been like that since day one and it continues to be so. And obviously it was both young drivers pushing the limits, so you get to a point like this. But like I said in the beginning, as long as both cars are returned in one piece... I feel that's fine.”
Schumacher confirmed that a meeting had taken place in the immediate aftermath of the Baku race between Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner, the team’s Chief Race Engineer Ayao Komatsu and Mazepin himself, with Schumacher then called into the meeting – whereupon, according to Schumacher, Mazepin apologised to him.
But speaking at Paul Ricard, Mazepin went on to clarify that he’d been apologising for how Schumacher had interpreted the incident – but not about the incident itself.
“I apologised to him if that's how he felt,” said Mazepin. “And he clearly was very upset. But I would just say that it's very important that he doesn't expect to have it too easy – I'm never going to not block or whatever reason. But I just clearly didn't expect him to be where he ended up being and if he felt the way he did, I said sorry, because that's what I think I should be doing. But it wasn't for my particular doing.”