The Sahara Force India Formula One team have announced this afternoon that 16 year old Russian Nikita Mazepin as a long term prospect for their team as development driver.
Mazepin raced in Formula Renault 2.0 in 2015, taking part in three rounds for Josef Kaufmann Racing. Prior to that, he took second place in the 2014 CIK-FIA World Championship of karting. His 2016 racing plans will see him take part in the Formula 3 Euro Series with Hi-Tech Racing.
Alongside that, Mazepin will dovetail his racing with a Formula 1 development role with Force India. The team have announced his signing in a ‘long-term association’ with the team. He will be given regular simulator sessions and will attend race events throughout 2016.
In an statement to the media, Mazepin is clearly delighted to have signed with Force India and believes that he has an incredible opportunity to learn and develop as a driver. Mazepin stated the following:-
‘It’s an incredible feeling to join Sahara Force India. It’s the biggest step in my career and I want to thank Vijay and everyone in the team for giving me this opportunity. I’m still young and I have a lot to learn, so the guidance and experience of Sahara Force India is really important for my development.
‘My goal is to race in Formula One in the future and today’s news takes me closer to achieving that objective. I will work hard to help the team and do everything I can to improve my skills on and off the track.’
The Russian driver joins Alfonso Celis Junior in the team’s development ranks, with Celis being signed up at the end of the 2015 season. In his own statement to the media today, Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya says they see a lot of potential with Mazepin and hinted that track time may be planned for the 16 year old later this season. Mallya stated the following:-
‘This is a fantastic opportunity for Nikita to begin his Formula One apprenticeship and become fully embedded inside our team. We have a strong track record of identifying and nurturing young talent and it is clear that Nikita is already a very capable and determined racer. 2016 will provide the perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities and develop the skills needed to become a Formula One driver.
‘We plan to use him extensively on our new simulator and he will also support our in-season testing programme, which will play an important role in the development of the VJM09. It’s also exciting for the team to begin working with a young Russian driver given the success of the Russian Grand Prix in recent years. It’s a market with huge potential for Formula One and the emergence of young talents, such as Nikita, will ensure interest in the sport continues to grow rapidly.’