JANUARY 29, 2019
Mazepin to test 2017 Mercedes this year
Russian driver Nikita Mazepin will conduct a series of F1 tests in a two-year old Mercedes car this year.
The 19-year-old, who steps up to Formula 2 this year, is the son of Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin.
Last year, Mazepin snr's company Uralkali tried to take over Force India, but that team ultimately did a deal with another billionaire, Lawrence Stroll.
Now, Speed Week reports that Mazepin's son Nikita, who raced in F3 and GP3 in the last two years, will conduct an innovative private testing programme with Mercedes this year.
Stroll's son Lawrence, now with Force India for 2019, underwent a similar set of private tests with Williams prior to his own F1 debut in 2017.
Speed Week reports that Mazepin will test a 2017-spec Mercedes on 12 separate days this year, in addition to his full Formula 2 race campaign.
Correspondent Mathias Bruner said: "Mazepin is not part of Mercedes' junior programme."
However, it is claimed that Mercedes' George Russell and Esteban Ocon will be involved in the tests to assist Mazepin.
The news will surely re-ignite the 'pay driver' debate in F1, but Lance Stroll says families or sponsors supporting drivers is just a part of motor racing.
"You need support, whether it's a family or a sponsor," he said.
"But then you're on your own -- money doesn't buy victories, no matter how much support you have. And if you don't win often enough, it won't be enough for F1."