Nikita Mazepin has apologised to Mick Schumacher following their near-miss at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but stressed he only offered the apology because his Haas teammate was upset and not for the incident itself.
Schumacher was closing on Mazepin for 13th place on the final lap, but as he went to overtake his teammate, Mazepin moved across to block Schumacher.
The moment happened at the fastest point on the circuit — in excess of 200 mph — but Schumacher managed to avoid the collision by moving to the right and finished the race 0.07s ahead of his teammate.
“What the f— was that?” an irate Schumacher asked his engineer over team radio immediately after the race. “Honestly, does he want to kill us?”
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s French Grand Prix, Schumacher said the two drivers met with team principal Guenther Steiner and chief engineer Ayao Komatsu after the race to clear the air.
“They called me in, we spoke about it together and he [Mazepin] did, after seeing the video, apologise for it — so on that sense we’re all fine,” Schumacher said.
“In the moment it was rather, well, confusing, in a way because I was not expecting it at all, especially between teammates.
“I understand it was the last lap — we’re all fighting — but if you come in such a tow, you use all that is left in terms of battery [hybrid power], and use everything, there is no stopping, and the only way you stop someone is by scaring him or pushing him into the wall and obviously he tried to do that.
“I, in fairness, kept my foot down and got by him anyway but, as I said, it was unexpected from my side and that’s why I had such a strong reaction afterwards.”
When Mazepin was asked about the apology he gave to his teammate, he suggested he only offered it to Schumacher because he was upset.
“Our discussions that go on within the team, I believe, should stay with the team,” Mazepin said.
“However, if it was already brought out, I would just say I apologised to him if that’s how he felt, and he clearly was very upset, but I would say it is very important that he doesn’t expect to have it too easy.
“I’m never going to not block for whatever reason, or one another, but I clearly didn’t expect him to be where he ended up being.
“If he felt the way he did, I said sorry because that’s what I think I should be doing. However, it wasn’t for my particular doings at that time.”
Mazepin also played down the severity of what happened in Baku.
“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,” he said. “So I’d like to look at that in a pretty positive way.
“I think we’ve had a bit of a misunderstanding between us. I thought he would choose the inside line, but he chose the outside line, but when I saw he committed to it I backed out of it because in the end we’re not fighting for any points and the team result is the priority for me.
“I think we have a positive vibe in the team, it has been like that since day one, and continues to be so.
“And obviously with both young drivers pushing the limit you get to a point like this, but as I said, as long as the cars return in one piece, with each other, I feel that’s fine with the team boss.”