Magnussen: Haas slump won't persist like McLaren or Williams

Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen dismissed the prospect of the US outfit sinking into an enduring period of under-performance like the fates that hit McLaren and Williams in the recent past.

Haas acquitted itself well in its first year in the sport in 2016 and gradually moved up the ranks to finish an impressive fifth in the Constructors’ standings in 2018, right behind top mid-field contender Renault.

Magnussen, who started his career at McLaren in 2014, transferred from Renault to Haas at the start of 2017, the Dane delivering the majority of the team’s points on its way to P5 in the 2018 championship.

“It was a pleasure to see a team that was on the up rather than going backwards,” remembered Magnussen, speaking to Motorsport-Total and taking a thinly veiled swipe at Renault in the process.

“It’s just a more positive experience. You feel the growth, the improvements and the excitement about it.

“In the first three years we made enormous steps forward. Maybe it didn’t look that big, but within three years, progressing from eighth to fifth is pretty good.”

Unfortunately, Haas tumbled down the order last year, its VF-19 car performance weighed down by seemingly unsolvable set-up and aero issues.

Despite a promising showing in pre-season testing last year, the enthusiasm subsided early on in 2019.

Aero configurations were tweaked, swapped around or upgraded but to no avail as Magnussen and Romain Grosjean and the Haas’ engineers remained mystified by their car’s erratic performance.

But as helpless as the US outfit appeared to be last season, with doubts creeping in among team personnel, Magnussen insists it wasn’t the start of a continual downturn, à la McLaren or Williams.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen here,” contended Magnussen.

“I think we can turn the situation around faster and find our way. I am convinced that we can do it.”

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Steiner feared Grosjean and Magnussen were 'unmanageable'

Haas F1 boss Guenther Steiner has admitted that there were points during the 2019 season when he feared that the team’s two drivers were simply no longer manageable together.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen clashed at several points in the first half of the season, with the worst incident coming early in the British Grand Prix where contact between the pair on the first lap sent both cars into retirement.

For Steiner, it was almost the final straw in a season that was already proving to be a deeply disappointing one for the squad.

“After Silverstone I was to a point where I could not see this working anymore,” he told Motorsport.com. “We were struggling with the car, then we were struggling with the drivers.

“If I cannot control the drivers, how can that be good for the team? I put a lot of pressure under them to work, to do everything good, and then they get together at turn 5.

“At a certain stage I thought it is not manageable anymore,” he admitted. “[They] forgot about that points are for the team and not only for them.

“They didn’t think about the team anymore at a certain point. They just saw the opportunity to do good like in Barcelona and Silverstone

“Was it because they were under too much pressure? I’ll find out maybe never. It could be as well just the pressure mounted dramatically for the team.”

The situation appeared to be largely defused over the summer. While the team’s on-track performance continued to be below expectations, the tension between Grosjean and Magnussen eased and both drivers ended up being retained for 2020.

Guenther Steiner (ITA) Haas F1 Team Principal and Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team.

From his point of view in the cockpit, Magnussen felt that the reports of friction with his team mate had been blown out of proportion by the media.

“It was annoying because it became such a big subject, especially in the press around the time,” he told Motorsport.com. “[It] created like a sense of emergency kind of thing. It wasn’t really any issue.

“Me and Romain had no issues,” he insisted. “We were on the phone to each other the week after Silverstone, there was absolutely no bad thing.

“Of course the team feels that we let them down, but there really was no intention,” adding that he didn’t take any offence from Steiner’s typically forthright comments. “The good thing about Gunther is that what you see is what you get.”

And in fact, Magnussen suggested that the struggles of 2019 might prove to be good for the Haas squad in the longer term.

“I think all of that stuff is made us closer and closer because of all that and the whole experience of this year,” he offered. “This made us closer as a team.”

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Steiner thought Grosjean/K-Mag were finished in 2019

Haas principal Guenther Steiner admits that after the British GP he thought Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were “not manageable anymore”.

Clashes between the two drivers became a hot topic around the middle part of 2019, with their first incident in Spain followed by a far bigger collision at Silverstone which led to both drivers retiring from the race.

A further knock between Magnussen and Grosjean happened at the German GP, but both escaped to record a double-points finish.

Haas have chosen to remain with the same line-up for 2020, though Steiner wasn’t about to hide the fact that he thought it was all over for the pair in 2019.

Asked by Motorsport.com if he thought the relationship between Grosjean and Magnussen was untenable, he said: “Absolutely, yeah. After Silverstone I was to a point where I could not see this working anymore, because we were struggling with the car, then we were struggling with the drivers.

“It was just a struggle, and I’m not really moaning because I am under pressure at all. It’s also for the team to motivate the team.

“If I cannot control the drivers, how can that be good for the team? I put a lot of pressure under them to work, to do everything good and then they get together at Turn 5. At a certain stage I thought it is not manageable anymore.”

Steiner feels like the pressure that Grosjean and Magnussen were under caused them to stop thinking about Haas’ interests.

“They didn’t think about the team anymore at a certain point, they just saw the opportunity to do good like in Barcelona and Silverstone, they qualified good and had the opportunity to get points and forgot those points are for the team and not only for them.

“They threw that one overboard, but was it because they were under too much pressure? I’ll find out maybe never. It could be as well just the pressure mounted dramatically for the team.”

Magnussen made it clear though that there were no issues between himself and Grosjean, and said Silverstone was blown out of proportion like the incident involving Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in Brazil.

“It was annoying, because it became such a big subject, especially in the press around the time,” he explained.

“And that created like a sense of emergency kind of thing. It wasn’t really any issue – like me and Romain had no issues.

“And we were on the phone to each other the week after Silverstone. There was absolutely no bad thing.

“Just seen it with [Sebastian] Vettel and [Charles] Leclerc, how little it takes. It doesn’t even need to be tension for the tyres to explode and then that’s what happened with me and Romain.

“Of course the team feels that we let them down. But there really was no intention. So I think all of that stuff has made us closer and closer because of all that and the whole experience of this year, this made us closer as a team.

“The good thing about Gunther especially is that what you see is what you get.”

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Steiner: Drivers not to blame for Haas’ poor 2019

Haas principal Guenther Steiner has refused to place any blame on Romain Grosjean or Kevin Magnussen for the team’s poor 2019.

After securing P5 in the 2018 Constructors’ Championship, their best finish in F1 to date, Haas slumped all the way to P9 in the 2019 order.

Both Grosjean and Magnussen were left in full defence mode come race day, but they didn’t help their cause with several on-track clashes, the low coming at Silverstone where contact between the pair resulted in a double-DNF.

But Steiner still is clear that he doesn’t place blame on either driver for Haas’ dismal showing in 2019.

“I think in no way can I attribute our not-so-good season to them, and therefore we stay with the same driver pairing,” he told reporters after the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.

“I think we need to be honest and say they couldn’t have done better with the car.

“You always can do better when you’re not running into each other, but they just tried too hard at some stage.

“I don’t think I can jump to a conclusion that they didn’t do a good job this year.”

Steiner did describe 2019 as an “eye-opener” for both drivers though and hopes they and the team can use the experience to come back strong in 2020.

“I think for them [the drivers] it was as well an eye-opener, because at the beginning of the season, the car was looking good, they were both very positive about the car, and then it didn’t pan out like it looked like,” he explained.

“We ended up in a few situations where we maybe tried too hard as a team, as drivers, everyone just tried too hard to force the result that wasn’t there, because the car wasn’t there, and everyone was focusing on how can we get the car better.

“That’s maybe what we learned of this as well, to focus on the right thing.”

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Haas insists drivers not responsible for troubled season

Haas boss Guenther Steiner has absolved both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen from any responsibility regarding the team’s poor campaign in 2019.

A pre-season favourite to lead the midfield chase this year, Haas’ drivers struggled from the outset as they battled their VF-19’s chronic aero and tyre issues, a familiar theme for the US outfit unfortunately.

Strong performances in qualifying were inexplicably followed by dismal Sundays, leaving everyone scratching their head, mystified by the VF-19’s seemingly incurable set-up troubles.

In Abu Dhabi, after F1’s season finale, Steiner took stock of his team’s disappointing year, and admitted that Grosjean and Magnussen weren’t a factor in the outfit’s painful underperformance.

“I think in no way can I attribute our not-so-good season to them, and therefore we stay with the same driver pairing,” said Steiner.

“I think we need to be honest and say they couldn’t have done better with the car.

“You always can do better when you’re not running into each other, but they just tried too hard at some stage.

“I don’t think I can jump to a conclusion that they didn’t do a good job this year.”

As usual, adversity breeds character and resilience, and Steiner hopes his team and its drivers will take on board in 2020 a few good lessons learnt from this year.

“I think for them [the drivers] it was as well an eye-opener, because at the beginning of the season, the car was looking good, they were both very positive about the car, and then it didn’t pan out like it looked like,” Steiner added.

“We ended up in a few situations where we maybe tried too hard as a team, as drivers, everyone just tried too hard to force the result that wasn’t there, because the car wasn’t there, and everyone was focusing on how can we get the car better.

“That’s maybe what we learned of this as well, to focus on the right thing.”

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Magnussen on lessons learnt through hard times

Kevin Magnussen says Haas have been fifth in the championship and can do it again despite this year’s slump.

After finishing fifth in last year’s championship, Haas struggled for form this season.

Almost from the get-go the team was aware that something was fundamentally wrong.

But while Haas initially threw updates at the VF19 in the hope of fixing the problem, they eventually reverted to their Australian-spec car and find some solutions.

It was, though, too little too late with team a disappointing ninth in the championship.

Magnussen told the official F1 website: “Last year we got P5 in the Constructors’ Championship. I think that’s pretty impressive. I don’t think many teams have done that in their third year.

“So we’ve got to take some confidence from that as well and just build on the experience that we have had this year and the learning that we have done and then just come back stronger next year.”

He added: “You always learn in any situation, but especially when it’s difficult you learn different things and you just have to approach your problems in a different way.

“I think that gives you strength and some experience that you wouldn’t necessarily have gotten if you were just cruising and driving in a perfect car. So in many ways it’s also been positive, both for me as a driver and for the team as well.”

Acknowledging that 2019 has been a tough season for Haas, Magnussen insisted he has “faith” that the team can recover next season.

“We couldn’t expect every year to get better from the previous years. Somehow, this year’s been positive in terms of what we’ve learned, what we’ve managed to understand and what we need to do better for the future.

“So yes it’s been tough on track, it’s been tough for everyone… to know that you can’t fight for a good position is hard. On the other hand, I think it’s been very positive in the way of what we’ve learned and what we’ve put in place for the future.

“I’ve got faith in the team and I think they’re going to do a great job [in 2020]. We need to keep pushing, keep being honest with ourselves, and don’t lose track of what we’ve learned.”

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Fittipaldi to return to single-seater racing in 2020 in Super Formula

Haas development driver Pietro Fittipaldi will contest the Japanese Super Formula championship in 2020, the Brazilian resuming a career in single-seater racing that was interrupted in 2018.

Fittipaldi was crowned Formula V8 3.5 champion in 2017 before stepping up to IndyCar the following year with a part-time drive with Dale Coyne Racing.

But a crash in May 2018 at the Spa round of the World Endurance Championship, in which he was racing for the DragonSpeed LMP1 team, left Fittipaldi with two broken legs and a premature end to his season.

The 23-year-old grandson of F1 legend Emerson Fittipaldi returned to action at the start of this year with WRT Audi in the German DTM series, a programme that was complemented by a development and testing role with Haas in F1.

Fittipaldi, who enjoyed a one-off in Super Formula in 2018, will race in the competitive Japanese series for B-MAX Racing woth Motopark, an opportunity that should also allow him to gain additional superlicence points to reach the total required to target a potential F1 drive for 2021.

Haas has yet to confirm its reserve and test driver line-up, but Fittipaldi is eager to continue his working relationship with the US outfit, although he recently expressed his hope that the tie-up for 2020 would include proper testing mileage or Friday FP1 outings, and not just simulator work.

However, track time with Haas might be hard to come by for Fittipaldi given the absence of in-season testing and Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen’s reluctance to give up their seat on Friday mornings.

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Grosjean determined to improve one big 'weakness'

Haas’ Romain Grosjean is determined to improve his launch off the grid, a major weakness from which he suffered in 2019 compared to teammate Kevin Magnussen.

Grosjean was once again a laggard off the grid when the lights went out at F1’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, the Frenchman losing a couple of positions from his P15 slot in the commotion of the opening lap.

“I think I need to improve my starts as that’s really been a weakness of mine this year against Kevin,” said Grosjean.

“Kevin was next to me. He was P10 after the first lap and I was P17, I believe.

“So yeah, I need to work not to lose time there. Then maybe we get more chances to be closer to the points.”

Grosjean’s lousy launches have been a recurring theme at Haas and team boss Guenther Steiner says his driver will be working with the US outfit’s engineers over the winter to improve his starts.

“Kevin is just doing a good job on it,” commented Steiner.

“Romain has said in the debrief that the guys need to work with him, because he just cannot handle the start.”

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Fittipaldi ‘waiting’ on Kubica for Haas decision

Pietro Fittipaldi is waiting to hear from Haas whether he will continue with the team next season amidst rumours Robert Kubica could take up a test driver role.

Fittipaldi signed as Haas’ test driver for this year’s championship, the Brazilian driving the VF19 during pre-season testing.

He was back in action during the in-season Bahrain test.

Fittipaldi is keen to continue with the team in 2020, however, he does not have the Super License points required to take up their reserve driver role.

As such the team is exploring other options with Kubica heavily linked to Haas in recent weeks.

“I’m waiting on (Kubica) to see what happens there,” Fittipaldi told Racer.

“I don’t know what the rumours are, what’s going on. That is a key part of it as well.

“I’d like to continue with the team and I’m pretty confident it’ll happen.

“But then I don’t know where Robert will play into it as well; if it’s going to happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to be without a role.”

Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time F1 World Champion Emerson, is hoping that if he does continue with Haas it will include Friday practice runs as those are worth Super License points.

“For sure if I continue with Haas I would like an increased role,” he continued.

“The Super License is something I’m working on, but as soon as I get that I would like to be the reserve driver for the team.

“One step at a time though and I know there’s no in-season testing next year, so free practices will be important.

“So for sure I’d like to continue what I’m doing and then do more for next year.

“I’m four points away from getting that Super License.

“If we complete four FP1s next year then we get the points, but then there’s also other ways to race in a championship to get points. It’s important we get it.”

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Steiner wants Kubica’s Haas decision by ‘next week’

Haas have an offer on the table for Robert Kubica to join the team for 2020, and team principal Guenther Steiner hopes for an answer by “next week”.

Kubica will leave Williams at the end of 2019 after a disappointing season, but one which saw the Polish driver return against all odds following the severe injuries he suffered in a 2011 rally crash.

He is yet to finalise his 2020 plans, but Haas have given Kubica the chance to serve as a development and test driver for 2020, and though Steiner accepts that it’s a big decision, he’s hoping to have an answer by “next week”.

“At the moment, that’s a little bit on stand by,” Steiner is quoted by GPToday.net when asked about the Kubica situation.

“There is no developments in the last two weeks and I hope we get news next week.

“It’s more from his side, he needs to decide on what he wants to do. We are patiently waiting and it is what it is. It’s a big decision and we respect that.”

There has been talk that the deal could include the chance of Kubica earning a race seat for 2021, but Steiner made it clear that no driver line-up for 2021 has been agreed.

“If you delay or stop something now, you will never catch up,” he said. “Nobody is certain to be here in 2021 because nobody is certainly signed so I think everybody is making the same comments.

“We haven’t signed anyone by the way but as soon as you do they’re fine with it because you have no leverage.

“It’s a little bit of a game. It’s not my decision what to do in 2021 but you cannot stop thinking about what we are going to do so you cannot stand by. You do everything like you would in 2021 otherwise the time you will never make back.”

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