LONDON – Formula One's new chief executive Stefano Domenicali has condemned the antics of Russian rookie Nikita Mazepin and reminded all drivers that they are role models for the sport.
The 21-year-old son of a fertiliser billionaire caused a storm in December when images of a female passenger being groped in the back of a car appeared on his Instagram feed.
The footage was swiftly deleted and Mazepin, who makes his debut with Haas this year alongside Michael Schumacher's son Mick, apologised.
“I would say that it was pretty clear what he did was not acceptable,” Domenicali told a virtual media round table on Thursday.
“But I think that he was apologetic as a reaction to what he did and we need to make sure that in the discussions that we will have…that they understand we cannot joke about certain things. It’s not possible.
“They are too important not to understand they are role models…that is something that we are going to discuss together, not only with him at the appropriate time.”
Formula One had previously described Mazepin's actions as “inappropriate” and left any further action to the US-owned team.
The hashtag #WeSayNoToMazepin proliferated on Twitter, countered by an opposing #WeSayYesToMazepin.
Domenicali said he had written to the drivers inviting them to a meeting, most likely in Bahrain which hosts both pre-season testing and the opening race on March 28, to emphasise the need to promote a positive image.
“We cannot lose the opportunity in making sure they understand they are more than drivers, they have a big responsibility because they are the face of our sport,” he said.
“They have to understand that their behaviour and their words and a lead-by-example approach is what I am expecting to share with them.
“I want to share how I believe we should work together also in using our platform and their role model to push for issues that are important for our society.”
Domenicali hailed seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, the sport's only Black driver and one who has taken a leading stance on diversity and racial justice, as a “massive ambassador” of great relevance.
“Lewis is really very important to F1 because he is embracing other values and bringing them into the discussion and putting his face to points out of the normal sport,” he said of the Mercedes driver.