Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes new driver Nikita Mazepin faces the "ultimate test" in Formula 1 to shake off his tag as a pay driver.
Steiner has expressed confidence the Russian has the ability to prove wrong those who claim he is only in F1 due to him being the son of a rich father.
“F1 is reality," said the Haas boss, speaking about Mazepin prior to the incident in December in which a video was released of him groping a female friend.
"We picked him because he did well in F2 and, when he comes to F1, that is the ultimate test.
“At some stage, I think, if he cannot compete at the same level as the other ones [rookies], he will be just out of it. I cannot take that decision for him.
“For sure, he wants to be in F1, he wants to be successful and he can be successful in my opinion."
Steiner added Mazepin should draw inspiration from Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll who has battled against similar claims throughout his career and who finally started to win over his critics by scoring two podium finishes last year.
"He needs to get his confidence that he can do it because he will be asked this [question] thousands of times," added Steiner.
"He needs to get over it like Lance is doing. He ended up on the podium.”
Although it is known the 21-year-old brings significant financial backing to Haas, Steiner would not be drawn on the details or if, indeed, a commercial deal would be struck with chemicals company Uralchem, owned by Mazepin's father, Dmitry.
He added: “I cannot say anything about a commercial deal. We will announce that at a later date if there is one.”
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