As if he wasn't already in hot water before even stepping into his Haas F1 car for the first time this season, Nikita Mazepin has officially turned himself into an easy target for haters. On Saturday's qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, he failed to adhere to a "gentleman's agreement" and compromised the lap times of several drivers.
The Russian qualified dead last for tonight's opening Grand Prix after spinning in both of his attempts to log a flying lap. In his first attempt, he lost the back of the car on turn 13 and ended up not only ruining his lap, but he compromised teammate Mick Schumacher's lap as well.
His second attempt was even more disastrous. In his rush to make it to the line before the chequered flag came out, Mazepin overtook other drivers who were in the final sector of the lap and were getting ready to go flat out for their respective attempts to get out of Q1. These drivers had to back off before their flying laps, causing the temperature of their tyres to fall off the optimum range.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Mazepin then spun out in turn 1 in front of the drivers that he had already just compromised. This caused yellow flags to come out, which meant that those immediately behind him were forced to slow down.
The biggest victims were Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin and Esteban Ocon in the Alpine. Both drivers were caught by yellow flags and failed to make it out of Q1, which was uncharacteristic considering the pace of their cars as exhibited by their teammates who eventually made it all the way to Q3.
The Haas looked weak all weekend, and it seems clear that they will be bringing up the rear for most of the season. Mazepin was never going to be a favourite on the grid, but the incidents during qualifying solidified the animosity that both fans and drivers were already feeling towards him.
Following his social media scandal, many were already questioning if the controversial rookie deserves a spot on the grid. Those who were hoping that the results on track would prove his worth were sorely disappointed in qualifying. It remains to be seen if he will be able to redeem himself during the race in Sakhir on Sunday.
Here is the final starting grid for the opening race of the season: