Russian F1 star Nikita Mazepin has discussed the status of his mandatory military service as the star juggles a career in elite motorsport with studies at a Moscow university, while looking ahead to a one-month army course.
The 22-year-old rookie driver is without a single championship point in his 15 career races to date in what can be described as an inauspicious start to his career at the sport’s highest level, and has been largely overshadowed by teammate Mick Schumacher as well as accusations of unsafe driving from his rivals.
With Mazepin still finding his feet in Formula One his father, Dmitry, had stated that his son’s momentum might be entirely stifled if he is subject to Russia’s mandatory military conscription – something which all male citizens aged between 18 and 27 must commit to, but with some exceptions.
“Nikita has 23 races, and they tell him that he needs to join the army,” billionaire businessman Dmitry Mazepin said this past summer. “They told him he had to be present at the training camp regularly. There would be no exceptions.
“He has a race every two weeks. How does he do it? Who do I ask this question to? And I’m not talking about Nikita Mazepin alone but about everyone: athletes and professionals in the same situation. The issue of education and sports is relevant.”
However, Mazepin has allayed concerns that his budding F1 career might be put on hold by previously explaining that he studies at Moscow State University for a period of three years, which will also allow him to graduate as a reserve officer.
Speaking recently to Russian TV, Mazepin gave an update on his studies and military plans looking ahead.
“Ilya Vyacheslavovich, the dean of my faculty, found time to personally present me with a diploma of completion of my bachelor’s degree. It is important to get support from the university. I was at the university today, because I had lectures, I am studying for a master’s degree,” Mazepin explained on television program ’50 Questions’.
“Did I get any marks just because I am a Formula 1 driver? No. It’s hard to tell what other people have in their heads. But several times I had problems due to omissions, bad grades in some subjects. And I understood that this was a chance to fly out.
“Sport does not last forever. I sincerely believe that, say, at the age of 30, when the career of a Formula 1 racer leaves its peak, life is just beginning. I grew up in a family where my mother graduated from Moscow State University, my father graduated from MGIMO, so, honestly, there was never a question about ‘not studying.’”
And as for how he feels he is performing in the military department?
“Things are not bad, the school year has just resumed. I’m not in the army, I’m in the military department, I have to finish this year, so I look forward to the summer, because we will have training camps somewhere in Balashikha. I will need to live in the barracks for a month.”
Draft avoidance is a felony under Russian criminal code and is punishable by up to two years in prison.
Since 2008, Russia has exempted full-time students who graduate from civil university with a military education.
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Mazepin finished at the back of the grid on his home Grand Prix in Sochi last weekend – but again faced accusations from his peers for his sometimes erratic driving style, prompting a warning from F1 race director Michael Masi.
The Russian driver earned the ire of Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda after Mazepin blocked an overtaking attempt with a move which came close to sending the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver into the wall – something which Masi said “would not be tolerated“.
“Going through Turn 12, it was just the move that he came across so late with Yuki, who was overtaking with DRS – it’s one of the things that we’ve said a few times and that we’ve issued black-and-whites for before, that it’s unsportsmanlike conduct and not something that we would tolerate,” said Masi after the race.