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Kevin Magnussen Q&A: Engine upgrade gives us hope

25 May 2016

Back in F1 after a season on the sidelines, Kevin Magnussen is currently hell bent on turning Renault’s fortunes around – starting this weekend in Monaco where he’ll use the French manufacturer’s upgraded power unit. In an exclusive interview, the Danish racer discusses the team's progress, his prospects this weekend and the meaning behind each of his tattoos…

Q: Kevin, aside from the Russian Grand Prix where you finished in P7 the season so far has probably been a bit disappointing for you. Can you tell us where reality and aspiration do not meet?

Kevin Magnussen: Ha, it’s no secret that we expected this season to be tough – so it would be wrong to say that it’s been disappointing so far. Yes, if you compare to where Lotus were last year it’s been a step backwards – but with what Renault had to deal with over the winter I wouldn’t say that we’ve done a bad job. Actually it is quite impressive where we are already if you take everything into consideration – all the last minute decisions!

Q: After your rather sudden departure from F1 last year you probably wanted to come back as the white knight in his shining armour and make a splash. Were you prepared for a rockier season?

KM: Believe it or not: I was just very happy to be back in Formula One! I truly enjoy being with this team. And I am young – and when you are young you believe in making your own destiny.

Q: Renault became a works team only six months ago and, as you have indicated, it has had to come to terms with a lot of deficits. From the first pre-season test at Barcelona to the Spanish Grand Prix have there been significant steps up?

KM: It is definitely a better car…

Q: …so you can say that there’s been a raise in performance?

KM: …relatively! It is all relative. Yes.

Q: Your team principal, Fred Vasseur, has counted you among five drivers he sees as possible future F1 champions in 2019 and beyond - among those five of course is also Max Verstappen. But while Max is already in a car where he can show his potential you have to live on that advance praise. Is there a bit of envy?

KM: For sure there is envy! I would love to win a Formula One race. I am actually jealous of everyone who has won a race in F1. I want that too! Every time I see someone on the podium I feel envy! (laughs) I will be up there as well one day - if I stay in F1.

Q: Does it give you hope when you see that the Red Bulls are doing so well - with the same engine - and that you and Ricciardo will race an upgrade on the weekend?

KM: I definitely do believe that this is a further step on the engine side, yes. But I also think that we still have some way to go. 2016 is all about catching up - and not losing faith.

Q: Does it help that Monaco is not such an engine driven track - that you can implement the engine update under a less stressful situation? That Monaco is more about the smartness of the driver and the right strategy than pure horsepower?

KM: Well, yes we will only know at the next race how strong the engine upgrade is - but it helps mentally to know that you can bank on more horsepower! (laughs) This is a drivers track - always has been - so let’s see where it takes me!

Q: You’ve only raced in Monaco once in an F1 car - for McLaren in 2014 - but two times in the 3.5 World Series. From your overall three starts you’ve finished twice in the points - so positives prevail…

KM: … and I want to add a third positive experience. I want to be in the points again though I am aware that the other 22 guys say the same! (laughs) It is a race where there is a 99 per cent chance of a safety car, which means that there must have been a crash. So looking at Saturday I think we could be around 13th in qualifying - and then if people crash out we could benefit. I believe that - as long as I am not the one crashing out!

Q: McLaren will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend. What are the biggest differences between Woking and Enstone?

KM: How down to earth Enstone is! Not so much showing off! It fits my personality much better!

Q: We know from Lewis Hamilton that his tattoos hold a message. You are also pretty ‘inked’. What is your message?

KM: Everything together has a meaning: hope, belief and love! For us Danish it is a way to live - probably like Sisu for the Finnish. I changed that a bit to my situation: the dice are hope, the stopwatch of course is time, or belief that I will make it, and the roses symbolise love.

Q: If you had to describe Monaco - how would that read?

KM: Very simple: it’s my favourite track.