Teenage Force India protégé Nikita Mazepin insists that he was not trying to impress the team during his recent Silverstone test.
The 17-year old, who was granted a two-day outing in Force India's current VJM09 immediately after the British Grand Prix, and showed well, posting fifth and fourth fastest times – in good company - on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. His final mark of 1m 31.561s was only a second off Kimi Raikkonen's ultimate pace-setting lap in the Ferrari and brought the Russian to within 0.25s of the day one benchmark set by McLaren's Fernando Alonso. Despite hoping that the effort had been noted, however, Mazepin insists that he was not out to create a stir.
“I didn't come here to impress the team, I came here to show a potential in myself, to do a good job, a clean job, and to show myself as a professional driver at 17 years old,” he claimed, “That was the main objective. You always try and do 101 per cent of your abilities, which is what I do day in, day out. I think I went pretty quick, improved the lap time of the weekend, obviously on a different tyre, but things went good.
“It was a very positive day, a very positive two days really. I expected myself to improve on day two in the car and that's what we've done, chipped away with the car as well, a lot of aero testing done, lot of things completed. I'm happy with how things went, managed to keep it on the black stuff although I have pushed quite hard today, tried to do my best.
“My main objective coming into this test was to help the team out as much as I can because they took a big risk of putting a young driver in - not many teams do that, so thanks to that I'm standing here now. For this, I can't thank them enough, so it was very important to give back from my side the performance and try and eliminate the mistakes.”
Just two years out of karts, and without any result of note in his first year in the FIA European F3 series, Mazepin is realistic about his future
“You have to remember I'm very young, and I'm just a driver,” he emphasised, “If you see in the paddock even names like Räikkönen and Alonso, it's people over them that decide what they do, and I'm just in exactly the same position. I'm just trying to do my best and I hope the team sees a good driver in myself, reliable, a driver they can trust to test their car, a driver they can have in the test. That's my main thing. I truly enjoyed driving this car, it's a great car, I'm just really hoping to get another chance.
“It is important that the team feels that they don't have anything to lose by putting you in the car over the race drivers, although obviously there is. I'm realistic and I'm honest, and I feel, myself, that I need more time to improve because [Nico] Hülkenberg and 'Checo' [Perez] have been in the car for many years, but hopefully I can show a potential to be like them or maybe, if the time goes right, even better than them.
“It is very important that I do a good job, but I don't really think about the age so much - I try and keep myself out of it. All I think about is how I do the job and how others do the job. I don't find any excuses for myself. If someone who is 28 or 38 went out and did the job better, it doesn't mean it's fine for me to do worse. I always want to be better than everyone and, hopefully, I can be one day.”