Haas F1 Team’s Guenther Steiner has once again defended his driver Kevin Magnussen following another incident during the Formula 1 Japanese GP.
Magnussen was battling Sauber’s Charles Leclerc at the start of the race outside the Top 10 when the Monegasque rammed into the back of Magnussen on the start/finish line and punctured the left rear tyre of the Dane.
He then had to complete a full lap on those tyres to the pits, damaging his car hugely. He eventually retired on Lap 8 with Leclerc continuing on. The Sauber driver too retired from the race though on Lap 38.
The incident brought Magnussen’s racing under scrutiny once again as Leclerc was critical of his driving. He felt Magnussen moved under braking which meant he was nowhere to go but hit the back of the Haas. He was surprised with the no-penalty.
“I don’t know what to say,” started Leclerc. “I don’t really understand why this time he is not penalised. I have seen a very similar situation with Max [few years ago]. I think he closed in on Kimi and it was penalised.
“I don’t really understand [the stewards decision], but I’ll ask some clarification into what we can do or not but for me, it was clear that it was not good doing that. For me it is clear from the cockpit.
“I have to see the images still but we are at such a high speed that moving then at the last moment like this is quite dangerous.” Sauber’s team principal Frederic Vassuer agreed with Leclerc to state it as a ‘dangerous’ move.
However, Steiner didn’t buy Leclerc’s statement. The Italian is clear that Magnussen did nothing wrong and if Sauber and Leclerc is agitated with it, they should complain to the stewards. He felt Leclerc got lucky to get away with a hit like that.
“It was wrong [from the stewards] because if you look at Baku, it was the same thing and there was a penalty,” said Steiner. “In the end, it didn’t change anything for Kevin. We had to retire because of it and the race developed in a way it shouldn’t have.
“I think Leclerc ran just straight into him, so what can he do? He didn’t do anything wrong in my opinion, so I don’t know if you brake late or whatever. He tries to make it look good by complaining and crying on the radio.
“For some it works, maybe for him as well. The stewards took their decision. The bad thing is our race was over by then. I think they have to explain why Kevin should get a penalty until then I cannot understand.
“Normally, if you run into somebody – I mean Kevin didn’t brake and you can look at the data – so if he runs into him straightaway, Kevin should not have a penalty. If they think Kevin should get then they should go to the stewards and ask for that.
“I think Leclerc got very lucky to get away with it.” Magnussen was surprised with the hit from Leclerc but played down the incident. “I passed Charles around the outside of 130R, then through the last chicane he kept close and slipstreamed down the main straight.
“I went to the right, I think he followed for a bit and then went back to the left and clipped my left-rear tire, causing the puncture. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens sometimes.
“The tire delaminated and ripped all the floor. It damaged the rear wing, the brake ducts, etc., so we had to retire,” he said. The stewards admitted that Magnussen moved to the right but insisted that Leclerc moved at the same time with the Dane.
Effectively, both the drivers thought the same to take the inside line – Magnussen did it to defend the inside line in Turn 1 while Leclerc wanted to overtake him in the right-hander but it ended up in a collision with not one driver to be blamed for it.