2018 is make or break for Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. The Danish driver is heading into his second season with the all-American team, the first time he’s spent more than one year racing with a squad in F1, but must up the ante this year to keep his Grand Prix dream alive.
Prior to his 2014 F1 debut, Magnussen was the next big thing as the son of former Stewart and McLaren driver Jan Magnussen – with the young charger on a meteoric rise.
He moved out of karts with Formula Ford Denmark – winning the 2008 title on debut before competing in German, European, and British F3 – stepping up to Formula Renault 3.5 in 2012.
Magnussen secured the 3.5 crown the following year, taking five wins for the DAMS team, sealing the title at the penultimate event at Paul Ricard, 60 points ahead of second-placed Stoffel Vandoorne.
But on his F1 debut for McLaren, a maiden podium in Australia was as good as it got.
… leading to Magnussen, not Button, being replaced by incoming 2-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.
A season on the sidelines in 2015 was followed by a return with Renault – where he outqualified, and outscored teammate Jolyon Palmer, 7 points to 1, but left at the end of the year for Haas.
There’s no doubt he’s respected there – his teammate Romain Grosjean singing his praises in Melbourne ahead of their first race together…
SOUNDBITE (English) ROMAIN GROSJEAN,
F1 DRIVER, HAAS:
“Kevin is a great driver, [he] has got a lot of experience, finished on the podium here back in the past, so you know he’s a fast driver and he’s a good recruit for the team.”
And a good recruit he proved to be, with 19 points scored, something its former driver Esteban Gutiérrez couldn’t manage in 2016.
But Haas will want more polished performances, with Magnussen branded “unsportsmanlike” by Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez for on-track clashes last year in Hungary and Belgium respectively.
The commitment, though, is there with Magnussen moving over the break from Copenhagen to Dubai, for a more central location and better training.
He now just needs a strong season to stay with Haas beyond 2018.