BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Haas Formula One team boss Guenther Steiner has acknowledged that his team's Russian racer Nikita Mazepin faces an uncertain future due to the fallout of Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
The 22-year-old was signed to a race seat last year as part of a title sponsorship deal the United States-owned team struck with Russian potash producer Uralkali owned by his billionaire father Dmitry Mazepin, who is a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"As I said before, not everything depends from us here," Steiner told reporters on Friday (Feb 25). "There is more than the F1 team involved, there are governments involved, so I have no idea what is coming from that side."
The US, Britain, Canada, the EU, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and others unveiled sanctions against Russia, targeting banks, military exports and members of President Putin's inner circle after the country launched an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.
However, Steiner said the sanctions had no impact on the team's relationship with Uralkali.
The team, he added, would be financially stable even if they had to cut ties with the Russian firm. "There is more ways to get the funding so there is no issue with that one."
Speaking to America's Speed City Broadcasting later on Friday, Steiner said Haas reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi would be the team's "first call" as a replacement in the event Mazepin could not drive.
The Brazilian, grandson of double F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi stood in for Romain Grosjean at the Sakhir and Abu Dhabi races in 2020 after the Frenchman's fiery crash.
"He's always around, he knows the team, he knows the car, to jump in from one day to the other, there is nobody better than Pietro around at the moment," said Steiner.
Haas ran their car without any Uralkali branding on Friday in the Barcelona pre-season test.
Asked in his earlier press call whether that was the end of the title sponsorship deal, Steiner said he would work on all of those details, including Mazepin's future, next week.
"We made the decision yesterday with our team partners this is what we're going to do," he said.