Kevin Magnussen says it is hard to believe there are three cars quicker than the Haas at the Australian Grand Prix, given how competitive his car felt in qualifying.
Both drivers will start from the top seven on Sunday after an impressive qualifying performance in Melbourne, where Romain Grosjean was less than 0.4s adrift of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. Magnussen was a quarter of a second adrift of his teammate, but says the car feels so good he is surprised Mercedes can be over a second faster.
“I think, generally, all the cars are stronger than last year,” Magnussen said. “It’s a very good car and it’s crazy to think that there are other cars that are faster than this. It feels very, very, very fast.”
Grosjean will start from sixth place and Magnussen says his own errors are the reason he will have to line up one position behind the Frenchman at Albert Park.
“It was a s**t lap. I think the car, I didn’t get it at all out of it, what I should have. I made a big mistake in Q1 which meant I had to use another set to get through — and then it means you only have one set for Q3, which is crazy because we should have been so easily through on just one set in Q1. So that was my bad.
“Then you do a lap and you only have one shot in Q3 and that wasn’t too pretty, so I think the car is pretty good. Very happy with the starting point and the car the team has given to start the season.
“It’s hard to say (how much time was lost but) I think a couple of tenths, easily. I braked too late into Turn 6 and luckily the car has good grip so just turn in anyway and get back on the power but I lost quite a lot of time there. Sector 3 was good though, made some time back.”
Haas looked competitive during pre-season testing but appeared to be in a tight midfield battle after practice, with Grosjean saying the team only unleashed its full pace for the first time this year in qualifying.
“It felt good,” Grosjean said. “Because we knew we were strong, and we knew how much we had in margin in terms of engine mode usage and it’s OK. We did a little bit in FP3 just to get top speed and braking points, but than we unleashed everything in qualifying.”