Many former Formula One drivers have been keen to share their opinion of the sport in recent months, and Mika Salo is no different.
The Finn, who is a regular FIA steward, was keen to express his assessment of Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin, after the 22 year old had a turbulent season opener in Bahrain. After a number of spins during practice and qualifying, the Russian crashed out after just two corners on lap 1, damaging the right hand side of his car after binning it into the barriers.
He was also outpaced by his team mate, Mick Schumacher and broke a gentleman’s agreement when passing a queue of drivers in Q1, which caused anger among some drivers.
Despite taking full responsibility of the spin, Salo said “That’s a guy who just doesn’t belong here,” when talking to Finnish broadcaster C More.
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The arrival of the young Russian has sparked a lot of criticism in the sport, with petitions even signed in the hope of having him kicked out of the sport for his pre-season exploits. Many also believe he is too aggressive in his driving style, and his behaviour on and off track is unacceptable.
However, Haas team boss Guenther Steiner came to Mazepin’s defense, reminding us that Schumacher also spun during the grand prix. “Both of them are just too brutal on the throttle,” he said. “But that’s something they have to learn,”
“Our car is not easy to drive. If we ever manage to beat the Williams, that will be good but our aim this year must be to prepare the drivers so that they are strong when our car is good again.”
The Russian himself took responsibility for the spin, by stating: “It all happens in three seconds and after that you think about it for a long time. If you gain more experience, this should not happen again. It was a tough weekend. I lost all confidence in the car that I had gained in the tests, so we have to analyze everything properly.”
There is no doubt that he has a lot to learn, but his lack of experience and knowledge is giving fans more fuel to add to the fire and Haas have got to decide whether the money is really worth the embarrassment.