As snow stopped play for Formula 1 last Wednesday in Barcelona, Crash.net's Luke Smith sat down with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen to look ahead to the new season, talk about the Dane's Indianapolis 500 dream and the need for more Leicester City-style stories in the sport.

Kevin, this has been your first season with real continuity in F1 with no change of team. How have you found that, having a winter where you know your plans going into the next year?

Kevin Magnussen: It’s been good. Much more relaxed than my previous winters where you’re changing teams and worrying about contracts and deals etc. This year I’ve been able to just focus on preparation and getting ready for the season.

Was that part of the appeal when Haas first approached you, knowing it was a multi-year arrangement?

KM: Yeah. Not the only thing, but it was one of the things that showed commitment from that side. I’ve really found a team that I like. I’m super happy to be continuing for another season here. Hopefully we can improve on last year and have a good season.

Looking back on last season, how would you rate that in terms of maximising both your own and the team’s potential?

KM: I think we had a pretty good season. It could have been better in many ways, but we didn’t do bad I don’t think. We had a car that was very competitive at some tracks and not competitive at all at other tracks. Sometimes when it was very competitive, I didn’t get any points out of it for different reasons, reliability etc. Other times when the car was not competitive, I managed to score points anyway. It was full of ups and downs and disappointment and excitement, but I think all in all, we did a good job to improve on the team’s first season in Formula 1, and nearly double the points the team got in its first season.

I think Mexico was the stand-out race where the team went into the weekend saying it stood no chance, and it turned out to be quite a good race. Is consistency something you’re now looking for across this year?

KM: Yeah. We had the sign of a very good car last year. We just couldn’t get the most out of it every time. So this year, one of the targets is to make sure we get more out of the car…

[Haas F1 team principal Günther Steiner walks over]

KM: …and that Günther is keeping warm!

Günther Steiner: You’re not driving today?

KM: No, I thought you were!

GS: I see you’ve got your overalls on.

KM: I just like them.

GS: You’re ready. Always ready!

[Steiner walks off]

It’s very clear that you guys get on! In terms of settling in at the team, have you found it quite easy to find a home here and fit in?

KM: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a really cool team to be working with. I’m happy here and I like the atmosphere and I like the people. I like the fact that we have a car that is competitive - although not every time, there is at least the potential. And that’s exciting.

Going from when you joined the team at the start of 2017, how have you seen it develop? Have you seen the team gel together more as it matures?

KM: Yeah, the team is growing and expanding and improving. That’s really cool to see. We tend to forget how new this team is, and how early in the process we actually still are. So I think it’s an exciting place to be for that reason as well, that it is expanding and growing.

Is it a place you see yourself staying in the long-term?

KM: Yeah, I don’t see why not.

You were at McLaren and winning Formula Renault 3.5 as well, in theory putting you in the radar for the top, top teams. Is Haas a project you can help develop up to that level?

KM: We’ve seen what small teams can do, with Force India, how well they’ve been doing the last couple of years. If anything, I think this team is very well backed and funded and has a very good backer in Gene, who is committed and extremely ambitious and demanding.

There’s talk of a cost cap that could come in to F1 at some stage, which should help smaller teams against manufacturers. Is that something you as a driver for a midfield team would be excited by?

KM: Absolutely. It would give a much better chance to us smaller teams. Who knows, even in the beginning, we would have an advantage because we’re used to not spending all that money. We wouldn’t have to change as many things. But big organisations like Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, they would really have to cut back on many things and change their structure a lot. So it would be really interesting. I have to say that of course in my position! But I think it would be good for Formula 1.

And for the fans as well to maybe see a different winner every week, not knowing who’s going to win.

KM: Yeah. It’s frustrating that you only have one or two, maybe three drivers that you can root for who are winning. I have fans rooting for me, all the other drivers in the midfield have fans rooting for them, and they never get to see that driver fighting for wins. Of course it would be a lot better if you had a broader range of drivers who were in the fight for wins. Of course it’s always going to be Ferrari, Mercedes - those big teams are always going to have the upper hand. But at least if you can make a surprise once in a while and get on the podium in the smallest team or even win a race, at least one time or a few times, that would be amazing I think and exciting for not only us who are racing in the small teams.

A bit like IndyCar then, where you see teams right at the back fight for wins with a strategy gamble?

KM: Yeah exactly, or even other sports like football where you have surprises sometimes. You get teams who have a lot of fans who support a team that maybe doesn’t always win - but then like Leicester a few years ago, mega story that suddenly they go on and win the Premier League. That’s a bit extreme, I know. Sometimes Barcelona gets beaten by a smaller team, and that’s great. They don’t get beaten very often, but it does happen sometimes. The people that root for the smaller team, they have a reason to root for them and kind of hope. I think it would be great.

Does it excite you that Haas could maybe be the Leicester of Formula 1 if a cost cap were to come in and upset the odds?

KM: That would be the dream.

I mentioned IndyCar: you were strongly linked there on a couple of occasions. Was it ever a real consideration for you?

KM: Yeah, absolutely. I went to Andretti in Indianapolis. I had talks with them. I nearly had a go. It was very, very close. But things didn’t turn out as I wanted with McLaren. I didn’t really have the support that I needed from them at the time. They supported me very well before that, but in that moment, they didn’t do a great job, I have to admit. So I ended up not driving at all and having a season completely out of driving, which was a catastrophe for me, and it would be for any racing driver. So it didn’t happen.

But then things have turned around, you’re still in F1 and very well settled here. Do you think if would have gone to IndyCar that would have been it for you and F1?

KM: I don’t think so, not necessarily. In some ways it would have been better for my career if I had had a season driving something and racing. I think I still would have had the opportunities that I had eventually.

Is the Indy 500 something that really appeals to you?

KM: Yeah, it is.

Is it still on your to do list for the future?

KM: Yeah, I would love to do it. I would never put aside Formula 1 to do it, but I would love to do it. It’s one of those things that I dream about at night sometimes. It’s just something that really turns me on.

Seeing what Fernando Alonso doing the Triple Crown, does that encourage you to push for an Indy 500 drive?

KM: I wouldn’t do it at the same time as Formula 1. I wouldn’t like to do that. It would require full focus, and I’d like to do more than just the Indy 500. I’d like to do a full season of IndyCar if I was going to do it I think. But whether I’ll get a chance to do that, I don’t know. If I race here for 15 years, then would you really want to go and do that after? Maybe. Maybe not.

You’ve also spoken before about racing with your father, Jan, who is still competing for Corvette in sports car racing. Is that something you’re still really eager to do one day and do a race together?

KM: Yeah. We talk about it all the time. It would be a great experience to have together as father and son. I’d love to make that happen. Daytona is a good opportunity because it’s early in the year and it’s not at the same time as Formula 1, so you could do that. But let’s see. If I get a chance, then I’ll take it for sure.

Comments

Loading Comments...