Why Magnussen must up his game to survive at Haas

Kevin Magnussen has openly acknowledged the need to enhance his performance to match that of his Haas teammate, Nico Hulkenberg. Following a comparison that saw Hulkenberg outpace him consistently over a single lap in both the Bahrain Grand Prix and throughout the 2023 season, Haas’s new team leader, Ayao Komatsu, expressed that Magnussen trailing seven-tenths behind the sister car’s pace was “not acceptable.”

Komatsu attributed the issue to Magnussen’s “driving style” rather than a lack of “talent,” a distinction that Magnussen himself accepts, recognizing the necessity for personal improvement in this aspect. “This is an area where I need to make progress,” Magnussen admitted to Ekstra Bladet newspaper in Jeddah. He highlighted a particular need to extract more performance in qualifying laps while maintaining his effectiveness in race conditions. “On the other side, it’s going really well under race conditions, so I don’t want to lose anything there either. But my driving style and how I set up the car is probably better suited to racing. But I don’t want to be so close to being eliminated in Q1 when I know that the car is capable of more. I just think I had the wrong balance on the front wing in Bahrain, which is an easy fix,” he elaborated.

Magnussen also reflected on the improvements Haas has made with its 2024 car, particularly in terms of ‘long run’ pace, which was a notable weakness with the previous year’s vehicle due to excessive tyre wear. “It was a huge relief not to be handicapped compared to those I was racing against,” Magnussen observed. The adjustments have brought Haas to a more competitive stance in terms of strategy and tyre longevity, greatly enhancing Magnussen’s racing experience. “I feel like we’re now equal both in terms of strategic options and tyre life, and that’s a huge relief. It means we can do some overtaking and it actually means something. Last year you could try to do something to get ahead, but you knew it wouldn’t make much of a difference. So it’s made the racing more fun and rewarding.”

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