HE has not even raced in Formula One yet but already there are people calling for him to be banned.
He’s been labelled “a lout” by Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz and the hashtag #SAYNOTOMAZEPIN is regularly trending on Twitter.
Not the impact that 21-year-old Nikita Mazepin – or indeed his Haas team – would have expected or wanted back in December when he was confirmed as their driver for 2021.
Mazepin is a slightly-better-than-average racer who finished last season in fifth place in the Formula 2 championship.
But the question mark over his talent is only a minor worry compared to his behaviour, which is the cause for concern and the social media outcry.
Mazepin is no stranger to controversy, yet when he posted a video on social media groping a female’s chest, people really took notice.
The incident occurred shortly after he was confirmed by Haas and there was a subsequent apology and the video deleted.
More recently, he made disparaging remarks about his new teammate Mick Schumacher and posted a stupid message wishing Covid a ‘happy birthday’.
He has also previously been banned from racing for punching Callum Ilott in the face after the Brit spoiled one of his flying laps during a practice session.
Let’s be honest here, had some other racing driver displayed such behaviour, he’d not come close to an F1 seat.
The difference here is Mazepin’s dad, Dmitry, is a billionaire and that sort of backing is likely to have caught Haas’s attention.
So, given Haas’s decision to pick – and stick – with Mazepin, what can they do to ensure he changes his attitude?
There is education, something that Haas boss Gunther Steiner said they would do, saying: “We need to work on it to give him the best opportunity to learn from this, concentrate on his racing and ensure he doesn’t do it anymore.
“He knows that. He realises that what was done wasn’t right. I’m not the type of guy who kicks in the face someone who’s on their knees – that’s not right.
“This is a young man who needs to grow up and for sure we have dealt with this and we will continue to deal with this.
“We are not saying that this was OK and letting him get away with it. We are educating him and will keep on educating him for his future.”
FREE BETS: GET OVER £2,000 IN SIGN UP OFFERS HERE
The acid test will be if he again causes controversy, for the fear is his card has already been marked.
We have seen how drivers in F1 quickly earn a name for themselves for their actions both on and off track and that is sometimes hard to shake.
Take outgoing Haas driver Romain Grosjean, once labelled a “first lap nutcase” by Mark Webber, it stuck with the Frenchman during his time in F1.
Will Mazepin’s “lout” tag remain now for the rest of his racing career?
Ultimately, it is now up to him to convince the world otherwise, and one wonders if he will or indeed if he actually cares.
Until now, there appears little remorse, yet then again, he has not been presented to the world’s press to deliver a heartfelt apology.
The concern is that, given his lengthy misdemeanour sheet, Mazepin will move on unopposed and without changing his ways.
In which case the only way he will listen is if F1 or the FIA speak up and call him to account.
Only then is he likely to act and for that, the sport and the governing body need to find some balls.