Losing out to Haas during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix “must be annoying” for McLaren, according to Kevin Magnussen.
Fernando Alonso described the Haas as “a Ferrari replica” on Friday evening after Romain Grosjean put the team in the top six in FP2, and its strong form continued as Magnussen and Grosjean qualified sixth and seventh. The two Haas drivers will start one place further up as a result of Daniel Ricciardo’s grid penalty, and when asked if Alonso’s quotes show he is worried by Haas, Magnussen replied: “Yeah, he’s annoyed that we’re in front!
“I wonder why? I’ve raced for McLaren, I’ve seen their infrastructure and it must be annoying.
“It’s not something I focus hugely on, but I would love to beat [McLaren and Renault]. It would be a great thing to beat those two teams, of course.”
With Magnussen knowing McLaren and Renault’s infrastructure well, having driven for both teams, the Dane acknowledges how big an achievement it would be for Haas to get the better of them this year.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge,” he said. “I say those comments with a smile on my face, but it’s going to be very, very difficult. I’ve been to those teams and I have huge respect for them and I know what they’re capable of, so they’re not going to be easy to outperform, and it’s going to be very, very difficult to have a better season than them and to beat them in the championship.
“At the moment, in this track, in this qualifying, we’ve had a better package. That shows that it can be done. But we’re now in the season, there’s a lot of things to do now. Our team is a small team, there’s a lot of things to focus on certainly and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were very, very strong from now and catch up very quickly. I’m just trying to capitalize as much as we can on this right now and then just hang on to it.”
Focusing on Sunday’s race, Magnussen says it would be unrealistic to expect Haas to finish in the positions it is starting in because of Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas both lining up further down the order.
“We’ve got a Mercedes and a Red Bull behind,” he said. “A Red Bull is not that far behind us, and we can’t mess with Red Bull and even though the Mercedes is starting so far back he’s probably coming to get into the top 10 at least, and be a threat still because they’re so much faster.
“Really we’re looking for seventh if everything goes to normal, which is a very good position to be in if we don’t need luck to be seventh. Actually seventh and eighth for the team should be our target. But it’s not a given because Renault are strong and McLaren are strong, so we’ve got to keep them behind.”