Nikita Mazepin says he isn’t proud of his actions after groping a woman and posting the video on social media last year, but the Haas F1 rookie believes his driving can change the opinions of his critics.

The 21-year-old posted the video, in which he grabbed a female sitting behind him in a car in Dubai, shortly after being confirmed as a Haas driver. The woman in question initially defended the Russian but subsequent social media posts suggested she was uncomfortable with the situation. While now admitting that he has had no contact with the young woman since, Mazepin insists he is learning from what happened.

“First of all it’s very important to say that my actions in December about the whole incident were incorrect,” Mazepin told ESPN. “I do take the full responsibility for it. It was a very big learning experience and I can confidently say that I’m much further in my knowledge on this kind of matter than I used to be, so there’s a small bit of positivity there.”

However, when pushed on what ‘furthering his knowledge’ actually means, Mazepin – who has faced extremely vocal opposition on social media – only added: “I totally understand they are correct in their feelings and that I was not correct with my actions. I’m not proud of it. It’s important to progress.”

Mazepin has been largely quiet since last December and had not openly addressed his actions prior to now. Haas said the matter was dealt with internally. Despite neither the team nor driver presenting any actual examples of his progression, Mazepin said he believes he will be able to change opinions through his driving rather than through any specific off-track measures.

“The people who are with me over the past 21 years know who I am,” he said. “It’s very difficult to be fake for people, and I’m far from that. I will be myself outside of the track, like I’ve been. I’ve had my ups and my lows, but that’s part of life. I think the racing should do the speaking, mostly.

“I believe I’m a very good racer on track; I believe I’m a fast racer. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge of showing people who might not like me at the moment that I have great racing skills. That hopefully changes the perception of me.”