After a loose headrest impeding his vision, Nikita Mazepin was forced to make an unscheduled early pit stop in the US Grand Prix.
Under normal circumstances, the Haas driver would have started ahead of a trio of cars who were serving engine penalties, while Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi got into a tangle on the first lap and lost ground.
Rather than dueling in the lower midfield, Mazepin was forced to go into the pits for corrective measures owing to a headrest issue.
“First, it was quite a sketchy first lap because it lifted the back of the headrest and blocked both left and right mirrors. I had to ask the team if there were any people around me and hoping there was nobody because I just couldn’t know where to turn in or not.
“And the second thing was that it obviously adds over 25 seconds of race time for an unnecessary pit-stop, so it made it pretty difficult from there onwards because I was driving on my own and trying to make one pit-stop work.
“But in these temperatures and with these tyres it was just not possible.”
Guenther Steiner, the Haas team’s principal, claimed the problem was quickly fixed and that Mazepin would have been under threat a black flag if quick action had not been taken.
“There are two pins on the back [of the headrest] which were not engaged completely,” said Steiner.
“Therefore we didn’t have to take the headrest off [at the pit-stop], just [push it] down and in.
“You need to come into the pits [or] else it is a black flag for safety reasons. We called him in immediately.”
Mazepin finished 17th and last of the remaining drivers, one position behind teammate Mick Schumacher, with the two of them being the only drivers lapped twice by winner Max Verstappen.
Haas still has five races left this season to break into the World Championship points table, with Schumacher’s P12 in the Hungarian Grand Prix being their best finish thus far.
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