Following difficult spells at McLaren and Renault, Kevin Magnussen found his ‘home’ with the Haas team, and he explains to Rob Watts how he’s helping the team to move forward this year.
By committing to a second year at Haas, Magnussen will remain at the same team for a second consecutive season for the first time in his career. As Magnussen explains, having some downtime during the offseason can pay dividends when the season begins.
“It’s been very quiet. Other years I’ve been busy changing teams and spending lots of time on everything that comes with that, This year I knew what was happening, and it’s been very quiet,” he explains.
“[Changing teams] can be distracting. Personally, I think it’s a nice feeling going into a second year with the same team. Especially here, it’s good to have continuity and to follow up on the work we did last year.
With the likes of Renault, McLaren, and even Sauber expected to improve this year, Magnussen believes that Haas can still break through the pack and avoid slipping back down the order.
“It should be possible, but certainly not easy. Those teams are also investing and progressing, some more than others I’m sure, but I think we can improve and catch up a little bit,” he said.
“I have a feeling the cars that HAAS designs are good, and that the area to really improve is in operating the car that we design. Last year we had a car that at certain tracks could be the fourth quickest car, and then at other races be the slowest car.
“I feel we have big potential, whereas if you look at a team like Sauber, there’s not a race where they are suddenly much faster; they were at the back the whole season.”
As one of the smaller teams in F1, Haas has demonstrated an ability to operate efficiently within its budget, but Magnussen says the team must now invest in key areas if it is to stay ahead of its rivals.
“We’re obviously not a front-running team, but [moving forward] requires a big step because you need to make a bigger step than everyone else around you; no one’s sleeping,” he said.
“Some areas, like our tyre department, didn’t exist at Haas until this season. [At McLaren] you’d have a lot of investment going into tyre research, whereas for us we’ve been guessing until now. It’s a good start, but we need to expand in other areas.”
One of the areas Magnussen believes he has made an impact is through his feedback to the engineers, and in helping to shape the development of this year’s car. With vastly different driving styles, finding a compromise to suit both he and Romain Grosjean has been difficult.
“I’m trying my best to make my mark and influence car development in the way I think it should go. Last year we had a car that was very nervous, and I’m a driver that needs rear grip and stability, and the car wasn’t working in that way last year.
“Romain is very extreme in how he likes oversteer. He doesn’t like any sort of understeer mid-corner, even if it’s at the expense of stability on entry. I’m hoping that the car will be stronger in that area this year, and if so, I’ll certainly be happy, but Romain isn’t the sort of driver that you stamp on.”