Magnussen signals excitement over Haas’ post-Steiner future

As Haas gears up for a pivotal 2024 season, the mood within the team is a mix of reflection and anticipation, marked by the sudden departure of team boss Gunther Steiner. Nico Hulkenberg voiced his regret over Steiner’s exit, but Kevin Magnussen, a stalwart at Haas, sees a silver lining in the team’s new direction.

Magnussen, speaking to Sky Italia at the Bahrain test, shared his perspective on the change, “I had a great relationship with Gunther, but we didn’t grow enough. I think this new development will be beneficial.” His optimism is tied to the promotion of Ayao Komatsu, a figure who, despite his low profile, has earned Magnussen’s respect and hope for the future.

Komatsu’s approach, focusing on engineering solutions, is already making waves at Haas. Magnussen noted the significant shift in testing methodologies, pointing out, “Exactly,” when asked if the rare sight of an aero sensor array on the 2024 car is an early sign of Komatsu’s influence. The main goal for the team during the three-day pre-season test, according to Magnussen, is to address tire wear issues that have plagued their race performance, “He has so far been very focused on just keeping everyone on track with our task right now, which is to improve our situation in the races. Because that is clearly what will give us a better season.”

Magnussen appreciates Komatsu’s realistic approach to the team’s ambitions and situation, “This also applies to the assessment of expectations internally in the team. We don’t dream as much this year,” indicating a grounded perspective on their prospects. He contrasts Komatsu’s engineering-centric vision with Steiner’s more charismatic leadership, “He (Komatsu) is an engineer. He sees things with different eyes. But a Formula 1 team consists mainly of engineers and they now have someone at the top who speaks the same language.”

Despite acknowledging Steiner’s strengths, Magnussen is not concerned about the commercial aspects of the team, focusing instead on the technical, “Of course Gunther had his own strengths. Ayao is certainly not the type for commercial matters. But I’m not worried about that. I just want a fast racing car.”

The Dane’s feedback on the 2024 car is cautiously optimistic, acknowledging its improvements while tempering expectations, “feels better than its two 2023-spec predecessors, but it will be like that for everyone.” He supports Komatsu’s gradual approach to change, emphasizing his presence and involvement as vital to fostering a unified team effort, “When the mechanics are working late at night, he’s there too. This creates a different dynamic. He’s fully focused on making sure everyone is going in the same direction.”

While agreeing with Hulkenberg that the new car doesn’t represent a drastic leap forward, Magnussen remains hopeful, particularly about the potential benefits of the new Ferrari-supplied rear suspension layout, “We are still exploring it, but it looks positive.”

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