Why Does Nikita Mazepin Race Under ‘RAF’ in F1?

Published 03/28/2021, 2:15 PM EDT
Formula One F1 – Pre-Season Testing – Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain – March 13, 2021 Haas’ Nikita Mazepin in action during testing REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed


For a fairly long time in the sporting world, there has been a massive row surrounding Russia. Everything stemmed from a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) order, banning Russia from competing at a world championship level.

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Apparently, the controversy about state-sponsored doping and cover-ups at the 2014 Winter Olympics was what triggered this drastic change. So, the likes of F1 rookie, Nikita Mazepin is racing under a different flag.

To be exact, the young driver is officially classified as a Russian Automobile Federation (RAF) driver. So Mazepin and all Russian athletes will not be representing their country at all. This ruling only applied to the 2021 sporting year onwards, so Daniil Kvyat was able to compete under the Russian flag in 2020.

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What does this mean for Nikita Mazepin?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recommended a 4-year ban on Russia. However, the CAS compromised and reduced it to 2 years.

Aside from the F1 ramifications, Russia will not have any representation at the upcoming Olympic Games or at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Recently, the FIA confirmed that the CAS ruling will impact all Russian drivers in every racing series. It explains why Mazepin is racing as an RAF driver.

This is because he has been forbidden from racing under the Russian flag for the next two seasons. Suffice to say, the 2019 German Grand Prix will be the last time the Russian flag was displayed on the podium.

Formula One F1 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain – Haas’ Nikita Mazepin in action during practice REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Assuming that Nikita Mazepin will last that long in F1, he cannot use the flag until 2023. The last time a country competed under the independent flag, India got suspended in 2012. This was largely due to the controversy surrounding the Indian Olympic Association’s election process.

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Interestingly, the CAS ruling does not affect the Russian Grand Prix. All this is in spite of a WADA ban on the country hosting sporting events during the sanction period.

For now, Mazepin will just have to focus on his driving and his official Formula One debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix. He has a much-heralded teammate in the form of Mick Schumacher, who is a fellow rookie. Admittedly, they are the youngest lineup of the season.

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Dhruv George

11750 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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