Steiner sharp criticism of McLaren

Haas Formula 1 team boss Gunther Steiner says that his driver Kevin Magnussen started off his F1 career “in the wrong team” at McLaren, a sharp criticism of the Woking based squad.

Could Kevin Magnussen’s Formula 1 career have been much more successful? At least that is what Haas team boss Gunther Steiner suggests in his new book Surviving to Drive, which also deals with the Dane in some places.



Kevin needed freedom

“Kevin was very young and very immature when he came to Formula One, and in my opinion it would have done him good to work with a mentor for another year,” Steiner writes about Magnussen, who came to Formula One with McLaren in 2014.

“Also, I think he was in the wrong team at the beginning,” Steiner reveals, explaining, “The Magnussens are old-school racing drivers and need a bit of freedom. McLaren never gave Kevin that and I think that held him back.”


McLaren cost “self-confidence”

Magnussen did indeed take second place on his Formula 1 debut in Melbourne. But in the rest of his career he never again stood on the podium in F1, and McLaren replaced him with Fernando Alonso after just one season.

“Later he got a bad reputation and then he was out for a year. When that happens, and especially at such a young age, you inevitably lose a bit of your confidence,” said Steiner, who brought Magnussen to Haas in 2017.

The Dane had previously driven a season for Renault in 2016, but only managed to finish in the points twice all year there too.

“I think that’s why he did so well with us. We gave him the freedom he needed and we supported him,” Steiner stresses.



Magnussen: “I had the wrong mindset…”

Kevin Magnussen says he wishes “people had prepared me more” for the demands of entering Formula 1 as a rookie driver in 2014.

“I wish I had a better mindset and that people had prepared me a little more,” said the Dane,

“Maybe [they should have] told me there were the highest expectations from the team, and I was surprised by Ron Dennis, and McLaren was a different team.

“When I got to McLaren, it would be the equivalent of getting a Mercedes now: they’ve been winning and fighting for championships.

“I always expected to do that, so I knew the expectation was to win, and when McLaren started to struggle, I just felt that pressure too much.


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“If I had gotten into Formula 1 with Force India, which was a close call, it would have been different, maybe I would have adjusted and said: ‘Okay, I need to finish in the points.’ It was just hard being a McLaren driver.

“I really struggled with it and lost a lot of confidence…

“I just found myself in a new space, when you know you can’t win and you’ll have that feeling so bad that you need to be winning, otherwise, it’s not good enough. So I couldn’t adjust.

“If I was fifth, I would be depressed. Today I would be over the moon. So I was always frustrated and always just not in the right mindset.”

Steiner: Brazil pole in 2022 as Haas highlight

“As long as you drive a good race, I give you all the freedom you want. As long as you do exactly what I say and don’t have a damn accident,” the Haas team boss wrote. Nevertheless, Haas and Magnussen parted ways for the time being after the 2020 season.

In 2022, however, the now 30-year-old made a surprise comeback after Haas had shown Nikita Masepin the door shortly before the start of the season. In 2023, the Dane is already in his sixth season for Haas.

Highlights include a fifth-place finish in his comeback race in Bahrain in 2022 and a pole position in Brazil last year. However, Magnussen has still not had any major successes in his Formula 1 career.


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Magnussen: Pole greater than podium

When asked what was the better moment of his career out of the podium or the pole position, Magnussen was clear.

“The pole was bigger, in 2014, when I came in, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

“But I actually expected to get on the podium, because I didn’t know any better, I kind of expected to win, if I’m honest.


“But in my junior career, that was always the case, you could be winning, every race you were going for the win, getting pole positions, and championships and when I got to Formula 1, I was just in that same mindset.

“Then reality hit after the first race, which made the first race not so special as it was kind of expected.

“If it came now, it would be crazy and I would be much happier now than back then.”

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