Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit of the Americas, 2019

‘It’s very frustrating as a driver: You’re just fighting to keep your position rather than attacking’

Driver performance analysis: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen admitted his 2019 campaign had been “very frustrating” at times as Haas’s troublesome VF-19 could often be persuaded to work well over a single lap, but tended to struggle in the races.

Making matters worse, there was little sign of the team making any consistent improvement with the car over the course of the season. The team looked in very good shape during pre-season testing and at the season-opening race in Melbourne.

But in Bahrain, having qualified just five-thousandths of a second off Max Verstappen fifth-placed Red Bull, Magnussen sank to 13th in the race. It was a sign of things to come.

It took until the end of the season for Haas to understand “which parts of the car are under-performing and not good enough”, and their performance fluctuated in the interim, Magnussen explained.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any a real trend. We were good in Australia. Then there was a few races, then we were good in Barcelona and Monaco. And then we were good in Russia, I can’t remember if there was somewhere else. It’s been very up-and-down, hard to see a trend.”

As with his team mate Romain Grosjean, that made it difficult to assess Magnussen’s performance throughout the season, aside from a few moments which stood out for good or bad reasons.

Qualifying: Lap time

The lower the lines, the better the driver performed

Magnussen fared well against Grosjean in qualifying over the year, with a couple of exceptions. At mid-season, when Haas began running its drivers in different versions of its chassis, Grosjean found a better balance with his older set-up than Magnussen did in the upgraded car.

Substantial crashes for Magnussen in Canada and Japan were two other notable occasions when he came up short.

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Race: Start versus finish

The graph of Magnussen’s starting and finishing positions illustrates the frustrations he experienced throughout 2019, and the repeated difficulty of bringing the VF-19 home anywhere near where it qualified. The most egregious example came in Austria where he recorded both his best starting position of the year, fifth, and worst finishing position, a dismal 19th, which team principal Guenther Steiner memorably described as “negatively amazing”.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2019
Fifth to 19th in Austria was a huge disappointment
“It became very clear in Bahrain that we had a problem, which was really strange because in winter testing and in the first race the car was really good,” said Magnussen.

“Even in Bahrain we qualified sixth or something, up there, then in the race it just completely fell apart. So from there on it was a little bit of panic in the team. We couldn’t really focus on finding the real root of the problem.

“We were looking a lot at tyres and blaming the problem on tyres issues whereas in fact it was a little more simple, I think, just aero issues, unstable aero, the whole platform just not being strong enough and consistent, stable enough.

“It’s a very frustrating problem, because we have able to qualify well but in the race we just have not had any strength. That’s very frustrating as a driver, where you start in a position and then you’re just fighting to try to hang on to your position rather than attacking the guy in front.”

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Race: Share of points

Race: How many times Magnussen finished ahead of every other driver

While Magnussen at least had the honour of claiming the majority of Haas’s points, top 10 finishes were far too seldom for the team. There were occasions where luck went against him, notably in Singapore, but more often than not the team’s inability to master their chassis held it back.

Magnussen saw those problems as a consequence of the team’s relative lack of experience. “We are a very young team,” he pointed out. “It was only our fourth year. Last year [2018] we got fifth in the constructors’ championship. I think that’s pretty impressive. I don’t think many teams have done that in their third year.

“So we’ve got to take some confidence from that as well and just build on the experience that we have had this year and the learning that we have done and then just come back stronger next year.”

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Race: Reasons for retirements

RaceRetirement
BritainDamage (collision with Grosjean)
ItalyHydraulics

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2019 F1 season

Browse all 2019 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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7 comments on “‘It’s very frustrating as a driver: You’re just fighting to keep your position rather than attacking’”

  1. Still do not understand this graphic.
    Race: How many times Magnussen finished ahead of every other driver

    But Magnussen seems to be missing in it..

    1. @seth-space – the graph shows how many times Magnussen beat each of the other 19 drivers. It shows each driver relative to the other drivers on the grid. That’s why he doesn’t figure in the graphic itself.

      For instance, it shows he beat Hamilton once (Germany), never beat Bottas, but Bottas did not finish twice. He beat Grosjean 5 times, but Grosjean wasn’t classified as a finisher 7 times.

      1. Thanks.. it seemed they all looked the same.
        But now i know ;)

  2. If everybody is fighting to keep your position doesn’t that imply that they are being attacked? I’d like to see this guy in a Merc or Ferrari. So much carnage.

    1. Put him in a Merc or a Ferrari – and he will be leading from start to finish.

      1. Put him in a Merc or Ferrari and he’ll make them a midfield team.

  3. @keithcollantine thank you for these new detailed analysis. Concerning the new charts, the one illustrating start and finish positions woul be more readable as a bar chart with the difference between start and finish at each race.

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