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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Magnussen says ‘told you’ after disc explodes

It wasn’t how Kevin Magnussen wanted to end his US GP but he at least got to say “told you” when his brake disc exploded, beaching him in the gravel in Austin.

Magnussen had a difficult time at Haas’ home race, the United States Grand Prix, as from the get go he struggled with a long brake pedal.

His race ended two laps early when he shot off the track at Turn 12, beaching his VF-19 in the gravel when his brakes failed.

He told Haas: “Told you.”

Asked about his comment after the race, he told RaceFans.net: “I had a long pedal the whole race and I was asking them to have a look but they couldn’t see anything.

“The temperatures were alright.

“So I just continued and then the disc exploded.”

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner says the team will investigate the exact cause of Magnussen’s DNF.

“Kevin retired with two laps to go, we think it was something with the brake system,” he said.

“We need to investigate.”

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Midweek Wrap: Max Madness, Miami in Doubt, Haas in Trouble

On the eve of the USGP, the past week saw American-centric topics come to the forefront in F1, with the usual Max Verstappen hysteria thrown-in for good measure.

Max Sticks His Foot in It: What an eventful weekend for Max Verstappen – and not in a good way, either. Seemingly public enemy number one in Mexico, the criticism has been coming-in thick-and-fast both for his foolish refusal to lift-off under yellows in Saturday qualifying, and his coming-together with Lewis Hamilton on Sunday. A guy who before the summer break could seemingly do no wrong, now it seems like he can do no right.

At least in the case of the incident on Saturday, I think it’s fairly warranted. I mean, he already had pole for crying out loud, knowingly risks it by not slowing, and then smugly admits to it in the press conference – that was never going to go down well. Sunday is less troublesome, if only because the man leading the criticism is no angel himself, and certainly had a part to play in that particular incident.

However, through both cases, I think we’re seeing that the ‘Mad Max’ of yore is not completely gone, and I for one am not that surprised. He’s been in F1 – and indeed been a force in F1 – for long enough now that it’s easy to forget he’s still very young at 22, and while that doesn’t excuse his behaviour by any means, it’s also not that far removed from his more-prattish teenage years that we should expect him to have completely grown out of it. Having not been 22 that long ago myself, I know how immature you can still be at that age, and really, all the rest of us can do is keep on his case and hope he eventually does move past it.

Another US race DOA? It’s the market F1 has been trying to crack for years, and while I think most would agree CoTA has been a success, attempts to bring more GPs stateside have proven far less fruitful, with Miami seemingly headed in that direction.

Already subjected to delays with funding and finding an appropriate venue, the race is now being opposed by local residents who don’t want 1000HP monsters tearing up their local streets.

Whether or not their opposition actually proves successful, I think it highlights the biggest difficulty of hosting more races in the US, which is that the vast majority of the public either doesn’t know, or doesn’t understand the sport. To them it’s just a nuisance, and there’s no guarantee the necessary work and road closures will be made up for with increased tourist revenue.

Even if personally I would love a race in Miami (I’d be first in line for a press credential!) the better move for F1 and Liberty if they are serious about growing the sport in the US is to shelve this second-GP idea, take whatever funds they’ve set aside for it, and put it towards marketing the product. It’s all well and good to say “build it, and they will come”, but you have to have enough people to come in the first place.

Haas Wave the White Flag: Suffice to say, it’s been a rough year for Haas, and it seems like with three races remaining, they’ve essentially thrown in the towel.

Reading through the various statements from team personnel over the weekend, you could see the focus now is on just surviving until 2020 – indeed, Romain Grosjean said literally that – which is a sorry turn of events for a team that was not that long ago punching well above its weight class.

For his part, Guenther Steiner has been willing to take at least some of the blame, and yet while that’s better than some other team principals *cough* Cyril Abiteboul *cough*, I do wonder if his time at the helm might be coming to an end. As good as he is for a soundbyte, he also seems devoid of ways to stop the rot, and his decision to bring back both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean further speaks to that. The last thing this sport needs is another Williams, yet I worry if things continue as they have in 2020, that’s exactly what we’ll end up with.


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Magnussen's race thwarted by… a sandwich bag!

Little unassuming details can make a big difference in F1 and that was certainly the case for Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.

After launching his race from P14 on the grid, Magnussen battled his way into the top ten and looked set on securing some precious points when a plastic sandwich bag swirling in the Marina Bay draft found its way onto the Haas’ left front wing.

That small piece of trash had big consequences for the Dane as it upset the VF19’s aerodynamics to the point where Magnussen was running four seconds off the pace after the final Safety Car period.

“It was after the [final] restart, when he all of a sudden got slower,” explained Haas team boss Guenther Steiner.

“He drove by a few times and we checked [the wing] because one of the engineers said we can see a loss of front downforce, and we thought the wing was broken.

“But Kevin said he didn’t hit anything, and you could not see it when he was driving by as the wing was up.”

Unfortunately, the only viable recourse was to pit Magnussen to rid the front wing of its unwanted junk, which the team finally did three laps from the checkered flag.

“That is why we made a pitstop, as he lost so much downforce, so he came in and we put new tyres on and took the bag out,” added Steiner.

“The tyres were going, so there was no point to stay out there. At least with a new set of tyres we can put a nice lap in and we see what it is. We got the bag.”

Indeed, the team snatched the bag, but the damage was done, with Magnussen concluding his disappointing race down in 17th position, albeit after achieving the fastest race lap of the evening thanks to his set of fresh tyres.

It was but a minor consolation however.

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Magnussen’s efforts thwarted by a plastic bag

Unlike in recent races when it was the Pirellis that cost Haas race-pace, this time around in Singapore it was a plastic bag that thwarted Kevin Magnussen.

Magnussen was running inside the top ten for much of the Singapore Grand Prix with Haas chasing their first points since July’s German GP.

However, as the race restarted after the third Safety Car the Dane suddenly began to lose pace and was picked off one by one by his rivals.

Magnussen eventually pitted with three laps to go, which initially appeared to be a tyre call, however, team boss Guenther Steiner says it was mainly to remove a plastic bag that had become caught on his wing and which was responsible for the loss of pace.

Steiner explained to Motorsport.com: “It was after the [final] restart, when he all of a sudden got slower.

“He drove by a few times and we checked [the wing] because one of the engineers said we can see a loss of front downforce, and we thought the wing was broken.

“But Kevin said he didn’t hit anything, and you could not see it when he was driving by as the wing was up.

“That is why we made a pit stop, as he lost so much downforce, so he came in and we put new tyres on and took the bag out.

“The tyres were going, so there was no point to stay out there.

“At least with a new set of tyres we can put a nice lap in and we see what it is. We got the bag.”

Magnussen finished a disappointing P17.

“It didn’t help,” Steiner replied when asked if the bag had cost the Dane points.

“You start to think that the front wing is broke and you lose downforce, and then the car doesn’t work any more.

“Would we have been able without the bag to keep the tyres alive? I don’t know.”

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