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Magnussen insists 'spirit is good' within Haas after Steiner departure

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and Haas F1 looks on in the Paddock

Kevin Magnussen believes that the spirit within Haas is “very good” following changes over the winter that saw Ayao Komatsu replace Guenther Steiner as Team Principal.

It was confirmed in early January that Steiner – who had led the squad since their F1 debut in 2016 – would leave with immediate effect, with Director of Engineering Komatsu stepping up to replace him.

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While Steiner was popular with both team members and fans alike, Magnussen has praised the impact that Komatsu’s engineering background has had so far within the team.

“The spirit is very good [in the team],” Magnussen explained as pre-season testing got underway in Bahrain. “I think people like to see a change in the team. I don’t think anyone had anything against Guenther – he was like family to most of us in the team here. But at the end of the day we’re here to compete and to create results, and we haven’t had that progression that we were hoping for.

Magnussen: Haas spirit 'very good' under Ayao Komatsu

“As I’ve said before, I think every member of the team is part of that and we’ve all got to step up. I think having an engineer at the helm in a sport that is so technical and, as we know, you need to be able to develop effectively and I think having someone like Ayao, who’s a race engineer, who’s been chief race engineer at our team for eight years at least or since the beginning of Haas, I think that’s going to create a change. It’s going to be different.”

Reflecting further on the changes he has noticed within Haas since taking to the track in Bahrain, Magnussen spoke positively about how Komatsu’s promotion had provided additional motivation for the American outfit.

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“I certainly feel the whole team is very engaged,” the Dane said. “I think it’s been motivating for them to have someone leading the team who they can go and talk to and feel understood. They’re taking to an engineer with recent experience of chief race engineering, so I think that creates a different dynamic in the team.

“Everyone’s kind of talking more to each other and I think [it’s] more united in a way so far. Let’s see how it pans out. I think it’s been a very positive atmosphere so far.”

Magnussen: 'We have made progress'

In terms of his on-track experiences with the new VF-24, Magnussen enjoyed the experience of getting behind the wheel again after the winter break and stated that the team were “fired up” to learn about their 2024 challenger, with the focus being on addressing the issues they faced – particularly with tyre degradation – in the previous campaign.

On day two in Bahrain, the 31-year-old suggested that, while there had been signs of progress for the squad during testing, their position in the pecking order may not be drastically different when the season gets underway.

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“I’m not sure how fast we are on outright pace,” Magnussen conceded. “I’d be surprised if we see any big surprises, if we are in a much different position to last year. I think we are in a slightly better position on tyres, but still it’s very hard to conclude that from just running in one set of conditions on one track.

“For now, at least it’s some positive signs that we’ve made progress on the issues that we had last year, but [we’re] not really thinking that we are in a much different position pace-wise. But then again, last year sometimes we were able to be in Q3 and have some good qualifyings, so that’s not really what we were trying to improve, it’s more the Sunday [performance].”

All will soon become clear when the season kicks off in Bahrain on February 29-March 2.

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