Barcelona, Feb 25 (AP) American-owned F1 team Haas dropped the sponsorship of Russian company Uralkali on its car on the final day of preseason testing in Barcelona where Mercedes and Red Bull were the fastest in action early Friday.
Haas’ driving lineup includes Nikita Mazepin, the only Russian driver on the Formula One grid this season. Its decision to drop the sponsor came a day after four-time champion Sebastian Vettel said he would not race at the Russian Grand Prix in September because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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“Haas F1 Team will present its VF-22 in a plain white livery, minus Uralkali branding, for the third and final day of track running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya,” the team said in a statement. “Nikita Mazepin will drive as planned in the morning session with Mick Schumacher taking over in the afternoon.”
Mazepin has not yet spoken publicly after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. He and team principal Gunther Steiner canceled media appearances Thursday.
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Mazepin’s test run Friday was cut short because of a suspected leak. A coolant leak had reduced the team’s time on track on Wednesday.
Haas receives significant funding from Uralkali and had unveiled a white, blue and red livery that resembled the Russian flag. The car Friday had the word “Haas” in big red letters on its side.
“No further comment will be made at this time regarding team partner agreements,” the team owned by Gene Haas said.
George Russell was fastest early in the morning session with Mercedes, ahead of the Red Bull of defending world champion Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
After no major incident during the first two days, the final session was red-flagged twice in the morning — first because of an issue with the Alpine of Fernando Alonso and then because of a crash by Pierre Gasly into the tire barriers with AlphaTauri.
Pirelli will artificially soak the track in the afternoon session to test wet tires. Among the sweeping regulation changes to try to improve racing in 2022 was the addition of bigger tires. All 20 drivers were expected to hit the track.
Another three-day test period is scheduled for March 10-12 in Bahrain ahead of the season-opener there on March 20. (AP)
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