Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Monaco, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #18: Kevin Magnussen

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Getting a second chance at a Formula 1 career after falling off the grid is a rarity. But when Kevin Magnussen was called back onto the grid by Haas for the start of the 2022 season, he did more than enough to convince his team that they had made the right call in signing him to a multi-year deal.

In 2023, however, Magnussen was rarely impressive, never outstanding and often invisible during grand prix weekends.

Driving for the team that ultimately finished last in the championship, it would not have been fair to expect heroics from Magnussen such as those he pulled off in the first half of 2022. But when Magnussen hangs up his helmet and looks back on his career in Formula 1, what will be the highlights from this season that he will remember most fondly?

After returning to the grid, Magnussen effectively ended the F1 career of young Mick Schumacher by thoroughly and consistently out-performing the second-year driver despite having missed a full season. But in 2023, it was Magnussen’s turn to be upstaged by a team mate who had been off the grid for even longer than he had. Nico Hulkenberg won the battle between the two Haas team mates over the year convincingly – a fight that Magnussen surely would have expected to have come out on top in heading into the season.

The season began on an uninspiring note when he was knocked out of Q1 in Bahrain in the first qualifying session of the season after being compromised by Sergio Perez on his final push lap. He made it through into Q2 the next round in Jeddah, before driving a solid race and poaching the final point from Yuki Tsunoda in the closing laps to secure a very satisfying top 10 finish. Sadly for Magnussen, he would only finish as high as that twice more over the remaining 20 rounds.

Australia was the first of a handful of truly bad weekends for Magnussen. He was slower than Hulkenberg across the weekend, failed to follow Hulkenberg into Q3 with a mistake on his final push lap in qualifying and then retired from the race in bizarre fashion by appearing to just drive into the wall. He managed to snag his second point of the season in Miami after holding his own against Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari for multiple laps, showing that he still knows how to race well, but soon a fundamental problem with the Haas began to emerge.

Kevin Magnussen

GP start420
GP finish10 (x3)20

The VF-23 suffered throughout the season with tyre degradation compared its rivals, leaving both Magnussen and Hulkenberg struggling to keep up with the pack over the course of a stint. But while both were having to drive around the problem, Hulkenberg seemed to manage it better than Magnussen. In Hungary, car number 20 just seemed slow. In Zandvoort, he not only wrecked his team’s new front wing heading out of the pits in practice, he caught the attention of the stewards multiple times in the rain-affected grand prix for his erratic driving and failed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the wet weather.

That was probably as bad as his performances would get over the remainder of the season, although he continued to be out-raced by Hulkenberg and had to grin and bear driving a car with an inherent weakness. When Singapore came around, he finally enjoyed a strong weekend. He qualified in the top six in a genuinely impressive result and gained the final point – his last of the season – when George Russell crashed out on the last lap in the grand prix.

But that was the last high point over a difficult season for Magnussen. Other than a decent showing in Las Vegas where he was the faster of the two Haas drivers over the weekend, it largely felt like he was making up the numbers. No outrageous mistakes, no flashes of brilliance. Just an underwhelming season in an underwhelming car.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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4 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #18: Kevin Magnussen”

  1. Magnussen admitted that the car suited Hulkenberg better in qualifying but also that he had a better job of adapting to it. Other than that there wasn’t much he could do. His strength lies in racing and that’s where the car was just a dog the whole year.

  2. I’m at the point where I’m sure Haas will be the last placed team on the grid in every season they compete it until Gene Haas actually pulls the plug. Perhaps he’ll sell to Andretti if their entry is denied and fortunes will change, but as it is currently this team will never produce a good car and develop it throughout a season to stay good, so it doesn’t really matter how well or poor the driver performs in it, they’ll never be anything other than at the far end of the field.

    In that sense it’s impossible to judge either of their drivers. I’m sure Kevin hasn’t forgotten how to drive a F1 car, nor did he show anything particularly poor in the car. It’s just that the car is poor and there’s nothing the drivers can do about that.

    1. Yet people felt they could say mick schumacher massively underperformed, I don’t remember hearing these excuses about the car being terrible last year.

  3. Magnussen is in trouble if the car stays poor in 2024. He is an underrated driver but it’s just Hulkenberg has always been one step ahead and more talented. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Given Hulkenberg was even faster in qualifying than Perez and Sainz

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