Nikita Mazepin may not be able to put his finger on exactly why he is performing so much better in 2020, but one thing’s for sure, he knows exactly where to put his foot down.
He’ll be the first to admit his rookie campaign with ART Grand Prix didn’t go to plan, but he looks a whole lot more at home with Hitech Grand Prix, in the updated 2020 chassis.
It took a little while for the Russian and the British outfit to get going this year, with neither scoring a point until the fourth race of the new season, but its been some turnaround since then. Mazepin has finished in the top five in each of the last four races, which included his first podium in Budapest (P2), and his first win in the Silverstone Feature Race.
The Russian has taken extremely well to the new 18-inch Pirellis, and while he says he wouldn’t put his improvement solely down to these, he most certainly likes driving on them.
“It is difficult to say whether they suit me more, but I definitely wouldn’t say they suit me any less, as I am doing better,” he explained. “I have to be honest; I have been enjoying the big tyres this year, I think they look cool.”
“With the tyres and everything else that F2 have brought in this year - as an upgrade package to match the tyres with the car - I think it has gone in the direction of making the cars perform better, and I am a big fan of driving fast, well-balanced cars. I have to say that this year is a step forward.”
Mazepin has looked like a totally different driver since Budapest. The Russian was running around at the back of the pack in 2019, taking just five points’ finishes, with a highest place of eighth.
Four rounds into the new campaign and he finally looks like the title challenger that motorsport fans saw back in 2018 with GP3. The 21-year-old looks more at home in the cockpit of the 2020 Hitech.
It may also have helped that the British outfit are new to the grid for 2020, so the team were starting the season from scratch and Mazepin could effectively setup the car to his liking.
“The reason why I am doing better, it is very difficult to put a finger on it,” he continued. “Really though, the only thing that I care about is moving forward in terms of my results and my progress and my dream of getting to Formula 1. How I achieve that, I really don’t care.
“I do think that we have an advantage, in being a new team, in that we are probably going to keep improving for the rest of the season. I'm pretty confident that we can do very well.
“At the end of the day, we are all in equally similar cars, everyone is within the regulations and it is up to the driver for the most part."