Hulkenberg praises Magnussen for ‘playing the team game’ to help Haas get off the mark in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, cars hurtling at breath-taking speeds with fearless drivers pushing the limit lap after lap. But not for Haas in Saudi Arabia, who managed to score what could be an incredibly crucial World Championship point thanks to a strategy that involved Kevin Magnussen driving as slowly as possible.

That doesn’t tell the full story of course. The team had opted to split their strategies when the very early Safety car came out, with Magnussen pitting and Nico Hulkenberg staying out. That jumped the German up the order, but he knew he’d pay for it later on when he did pit.

THE STRATEGIST: How Haas cleverly used Magnussen to allow Hulkenberg to snatch the final point in Jeddah

But then came Magnussen’s two separate 10-second time penalties, one earned for pushing Alex Albon’s Williams into the wall when they were fighting for position, the next for running off track when battling Yuki Tsunoda and gaining a lasting advantage. With his race ruined, the team quickly saw their opportunity.

2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Magnussen handed 10 second penalty for Albon contact

“We were fighting for P10 – one point – but against eight other drivers, so everything had to be perfect to take the opportunity,” Team Principal Ayao Komatsu explained.

“Kevin got two penalties, but once we realised he was out of points contention, we made a great call and Kev drove fantastically to hold those guys back while setting a target lap time, and Nico drove faultlessly.”

Magnussen successfully managed to drive slowly enough to back the pack up and gain a pit stop's worth of advantage for his team mate, who was pushing as hard as he could on worn tyres to hold onto the gap. When Hulkenberg eventually pitted, he came back out ahead of that chasing pack – with Haas stealing the only realistic point on offer for the midfield teams.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Verstappen takes the win and Bearman shines

“I feel happy, obviously, because scoring a point is quite tough these days and it takes one of the top five cars to drop out, which happened today, and we managed to capitalise on that,” said Hulkenberg, referencing the retirement for Lance Stroll.

“I think a very good strategy for the team to split the cars under the Safety Car, then good pace from myself and good work obviously from Kevin who was playing the team game, helping me a lot in my race and that was the foundation to be able to score points.”

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari

The MAG-lev train in action at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

As for Magnussen, he in many ways had the more eventful race despite coming home in P12, those two incidents being joined by a slew of others as he fought tooth and nail to keep everyone else at bay.

“The first one, I didn’t mean to have contact [with Albon]. The wall sort of comes back at you and I just judged it badly and we had contact unfortunately. I mean, it is what it is but we showed good pace.

“Unfortunately, I had another penalty with Tsunoda so that’s not a great day for me of course. But then I think I made up for it with the effort in keeping everyone behind to create a gap for Nico.”

FACTS AND STATS: Bearman makes it four Brits in the points for the first time since 1968

With the top five teams a decent step ahead of the chasing pack, those 10 vital scoring places could be very hard to come by this year. It might only be one point, but as Hulkenberg said, “better one than none!”

‘We really earned it today’ – Magnussen delighted to help Haas score ‘huge’ point



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