Despite an impressive debut with McLaren, Kevin Magnussen had struggled to find his place in Formula 1. He had to spend a year off and change teams a couple of times until he found himself at the American team Haas, where he’s set to begin his third straight season. The newest squad on the grid impressed particularly last year when Magnussen finished ninth in the championship.
Kevin, last year you had your best championship run and you finished in the top 10 for the first time. How satisfying was that?
Yeah, it was a good year for us, and we were fairly happy. You always want more, but for a third year in the history of the team, it’s not a bad result.
How has the team progressed since you arrived there?
I think they have done a great job to already be fighting for the fourth position in the championship, fighting against the factory teams like Renault and beating the likes of McLaren and Williams. I think it’s pretty impressive.
The car was very fast last year, but you made a few mistakes along the way, like in Australia. How did the team react to that?
Obviously they were really disappointed not to get any points out of Australia, where we were running in P4 and P5. It was very frustrating, but we have moved on and still had a really good season. For sure we try to learn from our mistakes.
What about this year’s car? There have been a few small bumps during the testing, so how do you feel right now?
I feel good. The car feels nice to drive and we had a really good day on Tuesday, running more than 130 laps. It’s still early, but the car feels good.
How do you perceive the performance relative to last year?
It’s very difficult to tell between the car performance, the tyres and the tarmac.
You had an opportunity to try how the new front wings affect following the other cars.
I followed another car and it feels like it’s easier to follow than it was last year. That’s positive, I guess.
Do you think it will impact the strategy? Maybe less undercutting and more hanging on to the car in front?
Maybe. I think it is very difficult to say, but there is a difference.
You have been working and sharing the car with Pietro Fittipaldi. How is he contributing to the team?
He’s very valuable to the team, especially in the simulator. He drove the car in the first week and that’s very important for him to get the feeling of it and help develop the simulator, so that he knows the correlation and how the real thing feels. That’s going to be a big help for us.
With the midfield being so tight this year, do you think you need a perfect run?
Yeah, it needs to be really good if you want to finish fourth, I think. You got the three big teams, that probably are going to be easily in front and after that I think there’s going to be very strong competition. So yes, I think you need to do a really good job if you want to finish fourth.
Do you build the car with the future updates already in mind?
So, what do you think is the gap between the speed now and the potential of the car?
It’s impossible to say right now, because it’s still in progress. The next upgrade is still being designed and tested in the wind tunnel, etc., so it’s very difficult to say right now. Hopefully very big.
There have been some renders released of the next generation cars for 2021. Do you think they look cool?
I have seen some different things, but I doubt that any of them actually represents how the cars are going to look like in reality.
Some standard parts, like the gearbox, might be coming in the next few years, which is somewhat like the NASCAR model. Do you think it would suit your team?
It wouldn’t hurt because we are already using a standard gearbox from Ferrari. I think the more even the Formula 1 can be the better, in my opinion. It would make it much more interesting if all ten teams actually had a fair chance of winning.
So, you are a fan of close racing.
Yes, of course. Nobody likes to see the Formula 1 cars running around on the track with no racing.
What race do you look forward the most?
I don’t know, maybe the first race. I’m very keen to go now and to see where we are and measure ourselves to the other teams.
Does it feel special that you will take part in the 1000th Formula 1 Grand Prix?
I feel that it’s special to be a part of Formula 1 in general, not because of the 1000th race – it would also be special if it would be just the 100th race.
Did you ever consider driving a NASCAR car, maybe in a test?
Yeah, I always tell Günther [Steiner – team principal] to set up for me a test in NASCAR. I love motorsport and I want to explore and try different things and NASCAR is a very iconic race car that I would love to try.
What about other forms of racing, maybe Danish motorsport on ice racing. Do you feel any interest?
Yeah, I have interest, but whatever I do, I want to do it 100%. It’s also about finding the time and the opportunity.
Like always, I must ask about racing with your dad, as there always seems to be something in the way.
Not this year, but hopefully in the future. It’s something that we want to do and there’s no stress – we will do it when we will have a good chance, but it’s not going to happen this year.
This year you have a primary sponsor in Rich Energy. What does it mean to the team?
It was already very stable but having this exciting title sponsor is a testimony to the progress that we’re going through and the growth that we’re seeing as a team. Being able to attract big sponsorship like that is very encouraging for us and we’re very excited to have a partner that is also at the beginning of their history – they are a new company that’s aiming to take over the world and so are we, so there’s good synergy.
There have been some talks about having new races in the calendar and even going to some former tracks. Which would you prefer?
The old ones, for sure. I would love to go back to Imola, Watkins Glen, Zandvoort, Zolder and all the old tracks. That would be awesome.