Kevin Magnussen expands on the decision to make his F1 return which he had stopped thinking about, as Guenther Steiner adds on taking him.
Magnussen was in a “happy place” after leaving Formula 1 at the end of 2020, but admits he didn’t think about the “obstacles” to returning to F1 until after agreeing to return to the Haas team at late notice.
The Danish driver was unceremoniously pushed out of Formula 1 by the Haas team when his contract ended, alongside teammate Romain Grosjean, with both having built successful careers in the US and in the case of Magnussen, sports car racing.
He spent the 2021 season competing for Chip Ganassi Racing in a prototype Cadillac, and was never fully in the frame for Mazepin’s Haas seat as Magnussen was preparing to lead Peugeot’s hotly anticipated World Endurance Championship project, which clashes with F1 at three of the four rounds in 2022.
Since departing F1 and claiming he would never return unless offered a race-winning car, he’s moved back to his home country, Denmark, and became a father for the first time, which Magnussen hints at being crucial factors in his decision to return after Haas Team Principal Steiner offered him the seat.
This will be Magnussen’s second return to F1 after a season away, having been forced out of McLaren after his rookie season to make way for Fernando Alonso, and joining Renault for 2016.
Haas’ Steiner though was confident the teams’ former compatriot was the one-and-only choice to “bring the team forward the quickest way with the least amount of risk”, and to be a suitable reference for young Ferrari junior Mick Schumacher on the other side of the garage. Magnussen got his first taste of the 2022 car on Friday afternoon in Bahrain – the first time he’d driven any iteration of a Formula 1 car since 2020 and set the pace in the extra hour they got.
Magnussen on deal plus ending contracts, return –
Magnussen: “I was in a happy place when Guenther called me me, I was in a good place. 2021 was really enjoyable for me, I have a daughter and I moved back to Denmark for the first time in many years. And did a season in IMSA, which I enjoyed a lot too, I had fun with it and did an IndyCar race, did Le Mans with my dad, I was just really enjoying myself a lot, so I wasn’t really thinking about Formula One a lot. I’d kind of really, truly accepted that Formula 1 was a closed chapter. Then of course I saw that Mazepin was out of Haas. I didn’t think I had a chance to go in that because I still don’t bring a lot other than just my driving skills to a team, so I thought that was still not going to be a possibility, and then Guenther called me.
“And that was a big surprise and I felt really excited when he called me and asked if I wanted to come back. Of course I had some thoughts about what if we’re going to go back again, and is that going to be fun or not? But I think with this regulation change that is, for this year, I just think there’s got to be some opportunity that things will be a little better. So, I thought that opportunity was too good to let down. And I also thought about the fact that I’m still only 29 years old. So there was not a lot of reasons to not take this opportunity, especially as given how I felt when Guenther called me I was so happy.”
Quick deal –
Magnussen: “When he called me I said yes immediately. And then I was like afterwards, then thought about it, when he asked me I was straight away I said yes. Then these obstacles became quite clear that I’ve got contracts with other teams and also all these thoughts about ‘do I need this?’ But I just feel like that first initial feeling that I had when Guenther called was so telling. I hadn’t really been thinking about Formula One. It’s not like I was missing F1, I’ve been doing TV work on Danish television, for the Formula 1 races. And it didn’t hurt, I was watching races and feeling good about it.
“So, I thought that was a closed chapter. I was happy where it was. But then, yeah, I just felt so excited about this possibility to actually just go back again and make another comeback. This is my second comeback and it’s fantastic, anyone that gets a chance to race in Formula 1 is extremely lucky. And if you get the opportunity, I think you should always grab it, and seize the moment.”
The second end –
Magnussen: “I think it was tough. Mentally, it was tough to accept that okay, that’s it, this dream that you’ve been working towards ever since you were a little kid is now a closed chapter. You have to deal with it and I think one of the ways that I dealt with it was to really think about how lucky I was to actually get the opportunity in the first place at all, even though I hadn’t won a world championship when I exited Haas in 2020, and I thought that whole chapter was closed, so that made me really sad.
“But then, I thought about how lucky I was to actually have that opportunity to have done seven years in Formula One and to get all those races and experiences, that made me feel really happy about what I had achieved. So in a way I just felt really grateful and blessed, and courteous what I have done, instead of sitting around, missing it and thinking about old times, looking back, just kind of look forward.”
Other obligations, plans for 2022 –
Magnussen: “I was also planning to do Le Mans with my dad again. I wasn’t sure that we would be able to do it, but we were trying to make it happen again. If it was difficult to get out? I’ve got to say a big thank you to Peugeot and Chip Ganassi Racing for allowing me to do this, because I was contracted to those two organisations and Chip Ganassi Racing has a has a big race in Sebring next weekend. And they don’t have a lot of time to find new driver and make new plans. So I think it was really big of both Chip Ganassi Racing and Peugeot to allow me to pursue this opportunity.”
You didn’t wish to return to a midfield team, so what changed –
Magnussen: “I don’t know, but I did. Very quickly. I think it’s one thing saying all that stuff when you don’t have an opportunity to go to Formula 1 and then when you actually sit with an opportunity to go back. It’s different. And it’s also a way of coping. There’s no way looking back, there’s no reason to look back and say, ‘oh, I want to go back’ and I get asked quite a lot. Would you like to go back? And I get tired of all of these questions. So it’s like, it’s easier to deal with if you’d say no, look, I’m looking forward, I’ve moved on. But then when you get that opportunity, then you take it.”
Steiner on Magnussen, Fittipaldi –
Multi-year deal –
Steiner: “I think you know a person pretty well after four years you work with him and we didn’t even have to discuss it. We said, ‘we’ve got to do this’, it was both ways ‘yes we are going to do this’. And that was it, it was pretty simplistic. There was no negotiation or anything. It’s like I know what he wants, I know what we want, and it’s the same thing. We are here to get better again, and we need him to help us to do that, like he did last time.”
Admission of going wrong with Mazepin –
Steiner: “I wouldn’t say it was the wrong decision, it was the right decision at the time to do that, because we knew 2021 will be a difficult year with a car which wasn’t an attempt to do something. And knowing that the car will not be good in 2021, we all knew that from 2020 onward when we started to develop, and we said we can do that and we try through another way and then what happened? We said, okay, I think we are ready again, to go the other way [on drivers]. We want to go up again and we took that decision to go with somebody experienced at that time, a week ago.”
Any back-up option if Magnussen didn’t work out –
Steiner: “That I don’t know the exact day anymore. I don’t know what I did yesterday with the events, which are happening to us at the moment, so never mind a week ago. But it was about a week ago, I would say. I don’t really know. But no, I never thought it was going sideways, I always worked on it actively. I didn’t speak with anybody else with any other driver, I was just confident that it will happen. Obviously then there were a few difficulties. But when you do any deal at this level, you know that it will be difficult, especially if we are involved, everything is more difficult. But then you just keep on working on it and solve the difficulties, you find solutions. Once we decided, I wouldn’t say it went smooth but there was a few hurdles in the way, but we just got them out of the way.”
Proven quality, any other –
Steiner: “Obviously, some of it is, you look back and see, and you always look what worked and the position you’re in now and this position we found ourselves in, it was like, how we can bring the team forward the quickest way with the least amount of risk and that was Kevin, because we know him, he works with us. I mean I explained that all before. Taking another rookie, we would face again the same problem or the same issue, we wouldn’t know where they are because we have no reference. So I think it’s one of those things that you just have to say it may be in the in the back of your head, let’s go the safe route and that’s what we did, but still it’s not a mega safe option it’s just like something we know which works and if you’ve got the opportunity to change that. And that will be that.”
Fittipaldi’s disappointment to find out he’s not going to race –
Steiner: “I would say if the talks with Kevin would have stalled, I think that would have been the fallback position because it was just too close to the first race or to the test, but it was not really discussed because I said before, Kevin came onboard pretty good. We never really stalled. It was just like, ‘oh we have to sort this one out’ and then we got there pretty quick… I spoke with Pietro. I don’t remember the day. I called him up one morning and told him obviously, it wasn’t his happiest moment, for obvious reasons. But I explained to him why, and he’s a team player and he’s still part of the team. I mean, he’s out now testing. So I would say yeah, obviously he would have preferred to be in the car himself.”
Decision balanced despite Fittipaldi been there for design process –
Steiner: “I think the biggest thing is I took the experience Kevin has in F1 racing as the deciding point. A car that the drivers don’t have input into the design of the car because we don’t know, I mean, nobody knew that these cars will be old bouncing down the street you know, that is not the drivers input what you get when you design a car, that is just driven by the regulation. So the main factor was the experience of the driving of Kevin was the main reason to choose him.”
The story was written by Danny Herbert
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