According to a report from the First Place Telegram group, Nikita Mazepin is expected to make the jump from Formula One to rally raiding beginning with the Silk Way Rally on 6–16 July. Although not yet confirmed, a source close to race organisers revealed the likelihood of his entry is “close to 100 percent.” Should things work out, he will likely race in the T4 SSV category for Snag Racing Team.
Mazepin lost his Haas F1 ride after just one season following his country’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Penalties from the FIA have limited his racing plans for at least 2022; while he could compete internationally under a neutral flag, Russian nationals have faced a multitude of sanctions (Mazepin and his father have been sanctioned by the European Union) to the point where he could feasibly only race within Russia or ally Belarus.
With no other options, he turned to Sergey Karyakin for an opportunity in the desert. Karyakin, who won the 2017 Dakar Rally‘s Quad category, and Snag Racing Team have since provided coaching and testing for Mazepin. In mid-April, he proclaimed his interest in racing in the Silk Way Rally and potentially Dakar.
Snag Racing fields Can-Am UTVs in the T4 SSV division. Karyakin, who won an SSV stage in the 2019 Dakar Rally, retired from the 2022 event after seven stages.
“Of course, it will not be easy for Nikita Mazepin in this race,” commented rider Anastasia Nifontova during a Silk Way Rally press conference on Tuesday. “Moving from the two-dimensional space of circuit competitions to the three-dimensional space of rally raids rarely succeeds the first time.”
“I have no doubt that Nikita will be very fast, coming from Formula One. As the example of Fernando Alonso competing in Dakar shows, a driver from Formula One can go fast, but at the beginning, he will lack raid experience.”
Alonso finished thirteenth in his Dakar Rally début in 2020. Jacky Ickx and Jean-Louis Schlesser are the only two racers with F1 experience who have won the legendary rally.
The 2022 Silk Way Rally will go through Russian territories in Dagestan and Chechnya, a route that will total 4,380 kilometres. Much of the expected entry list consists of Russian and Belarusian drivers, as well as allies Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan who are not subject to FIA disciplinary action as they have not contributed to the invasion. The war resulted in Kazakhstan losing its April World Rally-Raid Championship date.
“We are in touch with riders from other countries, they assure us of sincere friendship, but this year they will not be able to take part,” said Silk Way manager Vladimir Chagin. “However, the most important thing is that the race will take place.”