Kevin Magnussen says the 2022 Haas is “a great car” after he secured a top five finish on his return to Formula 1 in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Haas terminated Nikita Mazepin’s contract after the first pre-season test due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that followed, and only re-signed Magnussen the day before the final test started. Despite limited time in the car, Magnussen qualified an excellent seventh and then rose to fifth after the two Red Bull cars retired late in the opening race, and says his new car is the class of the midfield.
“It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it a lot,” Magnussen said. “It’s so good to be back in this position. Just got to say a massive well done to the team, getting this car into this position and I mean we were the strongest car in the midfield. I could actually see the Mercedes almost the whole race.
“I know we got a safety car at the end, so that helped a little on that, but it was just a different story to in the past and I’m so thankful. Again, I’ve been saying this all weekend that I just can’t believe this opportunity that I’ve got here, P5. Crazy.
“The team has done an amazing job. This is all down to them. I had nothing to do with this car. I just came in and drove it when it was done, and it’s a great car.”
Magnussen made a strong start to gain positions but then dropped behind Sergio Perez and George Russell quickly after locking up at Turn 1, and he admits he was unsure how much to risk because he didn’t know which drivers had cars that he could realistically race against.
“It was hard decision. Should I try and keep these people behind? It’s a Mercedes and (Red Bull). A decent Mercedes and I didn’t know how much faster they were, so maybe I could keep them behind for this stint. So I kind of just started pushing really hard which wasn’t a good idea looking back!
“I should’ve just gone easier on the tires because I pit two laps earlier than our planned stop because I used the tires so hard. But then in the second stint we were able to extend that and get back on track.
“So managed that really well with the engineers, getting the right amount of pushing in the critical corners and all that. And got on to the C2 tire on exactly the right lap that we planned for and then obviously had to save the car for the sprint race until the end.”
Given the condensed nature of the new season, the second race is this coming weekend in Saudi Arabia and Magnussen admits there are a few threats to the Haas position of best-of-the-rest that he feels the team needs to keep in mind.
“I think we’ve just got to focus on that midfield. I think [Valtteri] Bottas and [Pierre] Gasly look like they are gonna be there, and [Fernando] Alonso, well you can also say [Esteban] Ocon.
“The midfield is kind of our focus and we know that we got lucky with the two Red Bulls. If we can finish P7 in Jeddah then it’s the same as [Bahrain]. We were just lucky getting four more points than we would’ve had with P7.”