Magnussen praises 'amazing call' from Haas that helped him to first point of 2020
A delighted Kevin Magnussen was full of praise for a brave strategy call from his Haas team at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, which helped him to take both his, and the team’s, first points of 2020, as he came home in ninth place – although he was demoted to P10 by the stewards following a post-race enquiry.
With rain having fallen a few hours before the race start, Magnussen had raised eyebrows by starting the formation lap on full wet tyres, as the rest of his competitors opted for intermediates. But with Haas realising their error, and the warm track appearing to be drying quickly, Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were brought in for slicks at the end of the formation lap – the only drivers to make the switch.
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That move paid off when the rest of the field were forced to pit within the first five laps of the race to get rid of their grooved tyres, allowing Magnussen to climb as high as third early on, before he eventually fell to a more realistic ninth at the flag, but ahead of the McLaren of Carlos Sainz and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
“I’m so happy,” Magnussen beamed after the race, having qualified a lowly P16, two places ahead of Grosjean. “On the formation lap to call for slicks – that was an amazing call from the team, really strong for them to give me that trust to put me out on dry tyres in those conditions. It wasn’t easy and it was really risky, so they gave me that trust and it worked out.
“The pace was there and I was able to get the tyres alive and then move all the way up. I started from the pit lane and then after a few laps, I was P3 or something, fully back in the race. I knew from there P3 wasn’t for us, but I was in P3 and that was an amazing ‘starting’ position in the race – and I just thought I’ll try and hang onto it as much as I can.
“Eventually it was P9. I opened the gap to a Ferrari [Charles Leclerc’s] – who’d have thought that? – and I was able to keep the McLaren [of Sainz] away. It just shows what a good car we have in the race and it proves that the team have done an amazing job. Even though we’re struggling a little bit in qualifying, we are strong and we can do good races.”
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With the Haas drivers having been third and fourth by Lap 5 – after some opening laps that Grosjean described afterwards as being “a bit ole ole ole” – Grosjean then played an invaluable role in helping his team mate open up a gap over the chasing pack by acting as a buffer. But the Frenchman felt that damage from being passed by the Red Bull of Alex Albon had contributed to him falling to 15th by the flag.
“Sadly – I need to see the image, but Albon had quite a late move on me into Turn 1, hit my front wing, damaged it and then the car had much less performance,” said Grosjean. “So we tried, but then everything went out of the sink, and I couldn’t stay in the points.
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“We’ve got some work to do, but in the race, the team is doing great. Again today we took the right decision on the strategy, so in that aspect we’re doing great, but obviously the car is just not quite fast enough yet.”
Magnussen's joy was slightly checked after the race when both he and Grosjean were handed 10 second penalties for the very instructions they had received from the team on the formation lap, as the stewards ruled that Haas had contravened Article 27.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, which state that “the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.”
However, Magnussen still claimed a point for P10, with Grosjean dropping to P16, meaning that Haas are lifted Haas off the bottom of the constructors’ standings, with Williams now the only team not to have scored so far in 2020.