Kevin Magnussen reflects on successful return to F1 ahead of Abu Dhabi: “It’s certainly going to be a season that I will remember”

Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen looks forward to finishing out the season with the exciting atmosphere of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after a year filled with exciting achievements and a notable return to form for the team. 

“Yas Marina is a special race because it’s the last one, the atmosphere is special. Obviously the title has already been decided and usually there is a big party here too. It’s quite cool because it’s a night race as well – everything looks very shiny and bright. They’ve changed the track quite a bit and I’ve not driven this layout yet so I’m looking forward to trying that.”

When asked to reflect on his first year back in the series since the 2020 season, he felt that getting the opportunity to rejoin the grid in the first place was of utmost importance to him, as well as being a part of the team’s resurgence after a difficult 2021 season. He said that the pole position he earned last time out at the Brazilian Grand Prix was also an incredible achievement for him and the team, being not only his first pole position, but the first in Haas’ history in F1. 

“The first standout moment was coming back to the sport altogether. Of course, it was surprising at the beginning of the year to even be on the grid. Then to finish fifth and get the teams’ first points in a couple of years was great as well. After that, we had been strong for many races, but I’d say nothing beats that pole position. 

“It’s those three things – coming back to the sport, scoring points in the first race and then getting pole position. Overall, it’s being a part of this comeback for the team into strong competitiveness again, that’s been the main thing.” 

Magnussen discussed the nervous experience of taking pole position in the variable conditions at Interlagos, with his early lap just before the rain began setting him up to take provisional pole. As the clock ticked down in Q3, the rain continued to come down and ultimately solidified the shock result. 

“The radar said it was going to rain in Q3 and it was a little bit of a gamble to go out on the slicks but almost everyone else did too. When I knew they were on slicks I knew we were on the right tire. I also knew that it would probably be that first lap that would count. I did the lap, and it was a good lap, but I was obviously surprised that it was pole. Then we had the red flag so we had to wait in the garage and luckily it started raining more so nobody could improve their lap times, so I got pole, but it was a long eight minutes for sure.” 

Overall, Magnussen considers the 2022 season to be one of his most memorable, from his on-track achievements to the success the small but mighty team has been able to find in a year of new regulations and tight competition. 

“It’s certainly going to be a season that I will remember. Out of my years in Formula 1, this is going to be one of the special ones, coming back to the sport and getting my first pole position. It’s still just amazing that we, such a small little team, are able to pull-off these kinds of results. Not only scoring points and fighting with much bigger teams but also getting a pole position. I think the team has to work much harder than other teams, and I have a lot of respect for that.”

Looking ahead to 2023, Magnussen outlined the key improvements that the team will aim for with the development of next season’s car, including increased downforce, less weight and more power– an element that is assigned to Ferrari, the team’s power unit supplier. 

“The obvious things that we need to try and improve are power, downforce and weight. Power is out of our hands, it’s in the hands of Ferrari who will surely do a good job on that. We need to put more downforce on the car and make it lighter and improve our understanding of what the car needs from a set-up perspective. That’s going to be a moving target with a new car for next year, we need to really learn a big part of it. It’s the same sort of Formula 1 car, it’s very stiff and very low but I think it’s going to be exciting, it’s always exciting looking ahead to a new season.” 

“It’s been a hell of a ride, I’ve enjoyed every single second of it” – Mick Schumacher

Team-mate Mick Schumacher looked back on all he’s learned in his second year in the sport ahead of Abu Dhabi, having coped with mistakes and enjoyed the small successes. It was announced that he will not be returning to F1 for the 2023 season with the team, but will strive to return in the future. 

“Don’t stop believing in yourself and prove them wrong (PTW). Formula 1 is my life, I love every single moment of it – and the learnings and tough times – that’s all a part of it and it’s just a matter of how you go about it and cope with it. That’s when you know if you’re made out for this sport or not.”

Schumacher looks forward to the energetic atmosphere of the final race weekend, though he doesn’t know what to expect in terms of performance, being a venue that has not been a strong one for the team. 

“Abu Dhabi generally has always been a tough place for us so it’s hard to predict how it will be this year with the new regulations and the new car. Nonetheless I’m excited for it, it’s a fun race and driving into that sunset is always spectacular. It’s a beautiful place, it’s as simple as that.” 

Reflecting on the improvement the team has made in 2022, Schumacher said Haas’ lack of upgrades differed from the plans of other teams, but ended up not being a great hindrance to them, as they were able to achieve great results regardless. 

“The performance we had at the start of the year was incredible and we were fortunate with the step we made from the previous year. Obviously, things got a bit tougher, but the car has been able to perform at great levels even without big upgrades. Other teams have brought upgrades to a lot of races and that’s different to our approach but I’m sure the team has been working hard on the new car for next year and I’m sure they’ll do a great job.”

Schumacher thanked the fans as well as those he’s worked with at the team, and said that he is appreciative of the opportunities he was afforded along the way. 

“It’s been a hell of a ride, I’ve enjoyed every single second of it and it’s been great to work with so many great people. I know some people have left along the way but I’m very grateful for the opportunities they’ve given me. The fans have been super supportive all year round and it’s just been a real pleasure in that sense. Bring on 2023.”

Credit: Andy Hone / LAT Images / Haas F1 Media