Kevin Magnussen’s entry into Formula 1 was characterised by a series of false starts. But the Danish driver now feels that, with Haas, he’s in the right place to properly unlock his talent.
When Magnussen stepped onto the podium in his McLaren overalls after finishing second in his first ever Grand Prix back in 2014, it looked like the arrival of a new star. Magnussen was hot off a strong year in Renault 3.5, having taken the championship ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, and had now graduated into the McLaren team alongside Jenson Button, having been on McLaren’s young driver programme since 2010.
However, that podium visit in Australia was his last in Formula 1 to date. For 2015, Magnussen made way at McLaren to allow Fernando Alonso’s to re-join the team, while a move to a race seat at Renault for 2016 to partner Jolyon Palmer as the French squad returned to F1 provided little in the way of reward.
My first couple of years in F1 were really messy, changing teams, having a year off and coming back in and struggling again with the team. Now I feel like I’m back at a good level
He switched to Haas in 2017, but couldn't match team mate Romain Grosjean's points tally. However, in his second year at the American squad – the first time in F1 that he’s stayed in the race seat at a team for consecutive seasons – Magnussen is thriving in a season where Haas have surprised many with the strong performance of their VF-18.
“It’s been good,” said Magnussen, reflecting on his 2018 so far. “I’ve had a good time. I feel like I’m showing the progress that I have made over the last years. I feel more mature as a driver. You continue to learn and continue to improve [and] I feel like I’ve made some good steps after some tough years."
Reflecting on those tough years, Magnussen is clear that he feels a lack of stability prevented him from driving to his full potential as he tried to find a foothold in Formula 1. “My first couple of years in F1 were… tumultuous. They were really messy, changing teams, having a year off and coming back in and struggling again with the team. Now I’ve found some consistency, a more consistent place to get into the whole thing again and building up. I feel like I’m back at a good level.”
Asked to compare the differences between Haas and his first employers McLaren, Magnussen replied: “Haas is much more stable as a team. You don’t get people on the way out or on the way in.
“In the other teams, I saw a lot of people insecure about their positions in the team and worrying about that position. That creates a bad atmosphere and culture in the team. Whereas here [at Haas], there is a lot of stability – the management and most people here feel good and secure. We are under pressure, but it’s much more healthy kind of pressure.”
Magnussen’s sense of serenity at Haas has been mirrored by his 2018 results. While team mate Romain Grosjean has secured Haas’s best result of the season so far with his drive to fourth in Austria, the Frenchman has just 21 points to Magnussen’s 45, with the Dane having scored at seven of the first 12 races of the year, compared to Grosjean’s three top 10 finishes.
Going into the second part of the season, Magnussen sits eighth in the Drivers’ standings, just seven points behind leading midfield runner Nico Hulkenberg.