New F1 driver Nikita Mazepin slammed by his Haas team for 'abhorrent' act in video
Haas has condemned recent hire Nikita Mazepin for an "abhorrent" video showing the driver apparently groping a woman in the back seat of a car - though the woman later spoke out in his defence.
The 21-year-old Russian was announced last week as a driver for the American Formula One team in 2021. He posted the video on Instagram Stories and it quickly circulated across social media before Mazepin deleted the clip.
"Haas F1 Team does not condone the behaviour of Nikita Mazepin in the video recently posted on his social media. Additionally, the very fact that the video was posted on social media is also abhorrent to Haas F1 Team. The matter is being dealt with internally," the team said in a statement.
In the video, Mazepin reaches from the passenger seat of a car and touches the chest of an unidentified woman sitting in the back seat. The woman moves her hand in reaction to being touched, then raises her middle finger and covers the camera.
Mazepin posted an apology on Twitter for his "recent actions in terms of my own inappropriate behaviour and the fact that it was posted onto social media.
"I am sorry for the offence I have rightly caused and to the embarrassment I have brought to Haas F1 Team," Mazepin wrote.
"I have to hold myself to a higher standard as a Formula 1 driver and I acknowledge I have let myself and many people down. I promise I will learn from this."
In a twist, the woman in the video - who goes by the name Alma Del Caribe on social media - later claimed that she uploaded the video as a joke and had no ill-will towards Mazepin, saying they were friends.
"Hi guys, I just want to let you know Nikita and I have been good friends for a long time and nothing from that video was serious at all!" she wrote.
"We trust each other so much and this was a silly way of joking between us.
"I posted this video on his story as an internal joke. I am truly sorry.
"I can give you my word he's a really good person and he would never do anything to hurt me or humiliate me."
Mazepin is the son of Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, who financially backs the racing effort.
Nikita Mazepin will be teammates at Haas with Mick Schumacher, the Formula Two champion and son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.