Nikita Mazepin Q&A: Russian Grand PrixSeptember 21, 2021
Nikita Mazepin previews the forthcoming trip to Sochi for his home race; the Russian Grand Prix.
This week we head to Sochi for your home race, the Russian Grand Prix. Tell us what it’s like to race at home in front of your home crowd?
“First of all, I’m massively looking forward to going there. I’ve been in Sochi a few times, I went there for the first ever Grand Prix back in 2014 if I’m not mistaken, and back in the day, the country had a very different meaning for me. I didn’t race for my country, I wasn’t even in Formula 3 at the time. Obviously to have made it six years later means a lot to me and I’m one of the fortunate drivers who has a home race and I’m looking forward to experiencing the feeling of it.”
You’ve stood on the podium here, most recently securing second place in the sprint race during the 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship, tell us what that was like…
“I’ve been on the podium twice and taken pole position there. It’s a circuit I genuinely enjoy driving, not that we will be doing much this year. There’s a very long straight with DRS in, and in junior categories I’ve done a few very nice overtakes there. It’s always nice to be on the podium in any race, and if it’s your home race it’s even better.”
Do you feel the pressure from racing in front of your home crowd or do you view it as extra motivation? How is it from a driver’s mental perspective?
“I think it’s positive pressure. There’s this pressure that makes you tense in the car and makes you slower. The Sochi pressure for me is just giving me extra motivation and it gives me more endorphins and energy to power through the more difficult moments in the build-up to the race. Nevertheless, I’m going there with a clear mind to try and extract everything I can from myself and the car and I’m looking forward to seeing what the atmosphere is going to be like after what everybody has seen the Netherlands and what they showed us.”
Sochi is Round 15 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Tell us about your Formula 1 journey so far – what’s surprised you and what’s excited you?
“It hasn’t been a smooth ride but the tougher situations in life make you enjoy the easier ones and make you taste the success with a different feeling. It hasn’t been easy, Formula 1 is obviously a very complex championship – unlike any other – and the fact we’re at 15 races and we’re not even close to the end yet makes it challenging for everyone in that environment. I’ve had a positive progression from my first race and I’m sure that I’m a little bit like wine – I get better with the years I do. I think you can see that from any of the categories and classes that I’ve raced, so my competitors will not have an easy time going forwards.”
You’ve posted on social media videos of yourself driving off-road buggies, what is it about that style of driving that allows you to relax away from the pressure and the cauldron of Formula 1?
“I like driving in general. I haven’t got onto two wheels yet but that’s something I hope does come in the future. For me, anything that has four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine I enjoy driving. It’s completely different styles – in Formula 1 it’s my job and at times when you succeed it’s fun and the times when you don’t succeed it’s not fun, but when you just go out there in off-road buggies with your friends and you just have fun trying to keep it on the road without flipping, that’s something else.
Sochi will hold one more year of racing before it relocates to Igora Drive, near St Petersburg from 2023. What are your thoughts on the move and has the appetite for motorsport grown in Russia since hosting a Grand Prix?
“Positive. I think Sochi sets a very high level of hospitality, the racetrack itself and the views around the track. I’m sure the people in charge of it will do their best not to lower the standards, but to potentially up them.”
For fans coming to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix, it’s a place you know fairly well, what things are there to see and do away from the racetrack? It’s a destination known for a lot of tourism in Russia, what are the favorite things you like doing there?
“Sochi is in the south of the country. Obviously, the country is so big that you can jump on a plane and end up in the winter or in the summer at the same time. Sochi is the best place to go to for the sea but there are loads of things to visit such as the Formula 1 racetrack – it was designed after the Olympic project, so it was designed in the Olympic village, and if you leave the racetrack there are so many nice places to walk around and the scenery is just special. At the same time, there are loads of very nice restaurants by the seafront – it’s a very long seafront – especially at night when the lights are all lit up. You won’t get bored, that’s for sure.”
What do you want to say to the fans?
“To the fans that are hopefully coming over from various countries to see the Russian Grand Prix, my home Grand Prix, I’m hoping that they’re going to have a good time. Everyone is very welcoming and friendly in our country. It’s one of the bigger events that is happening in that part of Russia over the whole year, so it’s going to be a special thing for the people to see so many international fans come and be in their home.”