Kevin Magnussen - Waiting in the wings

“I would have loved to have a car that was able to win races, but I can only just keep pushing and continue to do my best and then hope that my chance will come one day,” says Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen.

“...there was always going to be a high chance of me getting into motorsport with the family that I come from. There is a passion for motorsport in the Magnussen family, and, yeah, I've carried that on,” says Magnussen.   -  AFP

Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Haas and Williams were the only two constructors yet to collect a point in the new Formula One season.

The Haas VF-20, having exhibited brake problems at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix due to insufficient cooling, saw a double DNF — Kevin Magnussen was forced to retire after a scary brake failure at turn three and Romain Grosjean suffered from a similar mishap on Lap 50.

Over the next weekend, racing again at the Red Bull Ring, the American racing team was happy to see the chequered flag without incidents. Magnussen and Grosjean finished 12th and 13th, respectively, both a lap down on winner Lewis Hamilton. The team’s performance at the track was, however, about six-tenths of a second slower than in 2019, when it had finished ninth in the World Constructors’ Championship standings.

Before the lights went out at the Hungaroring for the third race of the seaon, Magnussen told Sportstar in an interview that he is optimistic he “can extract more” from the car. The Danish racer will be looking to take confidence from his standout performance at the circuit two years ago when he finished seventh and among points. He also explained why he decided to go back to karting during the coronavirus pandemic, and spoke about his years at McLaren and as part of the British side’s Young Driver Programme and more.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you decided to go back to karting when many other drivers were seen participating in virtual F1. Why did you take such a call?

Because I love karting. I thought I missed it. I haven’t been seriously into karting since I was 14 or 15 maybe. And it was an opportunity to get back into something that’s been a huge part of my life for close to 12-13 years.

You were destined for the track, with your father also racing in F1. What was it like growing up in a family so deeply involved in motorsport?

Well, I don’t know. “Destined” is maybe stretching it, but there was always going to be a high chance of me getting into motorsport with the family that I come from. There is a passion for motorsport in the Magnussen family, and, yeah, I've carried that on.

Magnussen leads Haas teammate Romain Grosjean during the Styrian Grand Prix, the second race of the 2020 F1 season.   -  Reuters

 

How did McLaren support you as a youngster and part of their Young Driver Programme? What role did they play?

Their role evolved over the years. I joined the McLaren Young Driver Programme at the end of 2008. And then I joined this big pool of young drivers. I think we must have been around 15 or 20 drivers at the time. And then they choose the best ones from the pool and then you go into another programme and then eventually you get a contract with a Formula One team and become a test driver.

In the beginning, you start out with just joining a few training and educational camps where they teach you about different things in Formula One, like vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics and also physical things like training, attrition and stuff like that. And then you get into simulator driving and performance stuff. And then you get to drive the car at one point, and yeah, join the team.

You had a terrific debut in 2014, qualifying fourth in Australia, crossing the finish line in third and classified second. You’re undoubtedly a fierce and competitive racer. But are you yet to get a car that can win races? Your comments?

Yeah. I would have loved to have a car that was able to win races, but I can only just keep pushing and continue to do my best and then hope that my chance will come one day.

What is your take on Fernando Alonso returning to Renault? Should teams give more opportunities to younger drivers?

I think teams should do what is best for them.

What have been the positives and negatives of racing on the same circuit over consecutive weekends?

Positives — not having to travel. Negative — not being that good on (that particular) track (laughs).

Where do you view Haas in the order after the first two races? What are the challenges of the team looking ahead?

Well, we need to find more qualifying speed. The car’s very strong in race conditions. So, if we can qualify slightly better, then that will give us a better chance in the race of scoring points.

With so many changes in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, how different does being on the grid feel?

It’s a lot more quiet. So much so that you know in many ways, it doesn’t really feel like a race. When you get in the car and close the visor, you don’t feel a difference, but then, getting into the car before the race and not being able to see or hear the fence, that certainly makes a difference. I miss that atmosphere. It gives you that heightened sense that you’re about to go into the competition. The atmosphere especially, yeah, it’s kind of important.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said he doesn’t see things changing at the team at least for this season.   -  Getty Images

 

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner in a recent interview had said that he doesn’t see things changing at Haas at least for this season. Do you agree?

Yeah, I think we can extract more from this car. And also, we’re going to face different challenges.

So there’s going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be races where we have a better opportunity than others. And, you know, we’ll try and take those opportunities and make the best of it. So I don’t think we’re just going to see the same result.

Do you see the possibility of a Danish Grand Prix in the near future? It was talked about a lot fairly recently, but it’s gone quiet again...

Well, it got dropped. It was very close to happening and then they cancelled the idea. And so you know, there are certainly some people for it in the government in Copenhagen, and I would love to have a home race one day, so fingers crossed.