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Magnussen Komatsu Haas Leadership

Magnussen Embraces New Leadership Under Komatsu

17/02/2024

This season, Kevin Magnussen welcomes Ayao Komatsu as Haas’s new principal, expecting dynamic changes and a closer collaboration shaped by their long-standing rapport.

This year, Kevin Magnussen doesn’t have a new teammate but will have a new boss since Ayao Komatsu has taken over Günther Steiner’s role as the team’s principal.

It was Günther Steiner who brought Kevin Magnussen back to F1… yet, the Dane also maintained a very good relationship with engineer Komatsu for 7 years now.

“I have a good relationship with Ayao. He has been with the team for eight years, since the beginning in 2016, so I’ve worked very closely with him since I joined Haas in 2017.”

“Ayao is an engineer, and he has a fair amount of engineering experience within a Formula 1 team, and having that mindset at the helm of the team is going to be very interesting. I think it will change the dynamics and communication across the organization.”

Kevin Magnussen assures he is returning to the competition fitter than ever: how then, was his winter so fantastic?

“Everything is going well. I think each year, I try to surpass myself by getting to the track a bit fitter each time. You can always train a bit harder. It’s certain that these last two years, I’ve focused more on this aspect and since they’ve set the weight limit for drivers, you can put on a bit of weight, a bit of muscle without being at a disadvantage. I’ve taken advantage of this these past two years. Maintaining this level of fitness throughout the season will be a challenge.”

However, the big question will be whether the VF-24 will be a much better car than its predecessor; a goal that certainly does not seem complex…

Yet, is Haas lost in its development?

Kevin Magnussen, unlike Nico Hülkenberg, had validated and kept the significant upgrades brought by the team in Austin last year. Will the 2024 car then continue on this mixed evolution path?

“The evolution was more of an experiment last year. It’s hard to call it an evolution because it wasn’t really a leap forward in terms of performance, it was more of a sideways step, but it was a very good experience to explore the car concept we have this year. I think we wanted to see the potential and on-track characteristics of this car concept.”

“I hope we can make a step forward. We switched to developing this year’s car quite late, so we had little time to fine-tune it, but it’s going rather well. Even though we can’t guarantee that we will make a step forward from the first race in Bahrain – I think the development looks at least more interesting.”

It’s clear that last year, Kevin Magnussen found it more challenging to adapt to driving the Haas compared to his teammate Nico Hülkenberg. What particularly troubled him?

“We started the season with quite a bit of grip, but it was very unstable and inconsistent. That’s something I struggled with a bit. I like the front to be at least consistent so I can manage oversteer or understeer. It’s not that I have a preference; it’s mostly the inconsistency, particularly in corner entry, that bothers me, where I need to be able to commit to turning the car and staying on the brakes.”

“The upgrades in Austin really helped me. It wasn’t a huge step, but it was a step in the right direction, and I hope this year will be an even bigger step that way.”

In recent weeks, Ayao Komatsu has been conveying a message: Haas is expected to have the slowest car on the grid in Bahrain for the first Grand Prix.

Isn’t Kevin Magnussen disappointed by this apparent lack of ambition?

“Expectations are quite well managed this year. I think in some years, there’s been some unrealistic optimism heading into the seasons, and I’ve been affected by that too. Ayao is very clear that he doesn’t think we’ve moved from where we were last year, but he is clear that he sees the development trajectory as much stronger, so he’s optimistic that we can move forward this year.”

“Last year, we hit a wall in terms of development. We couldn’t get past that barrier before we changed the concept, and this year looks more promising. Expectations are low to start, but high for the season overall.”

Now, Kevin Magnussen is a highly experienced F1 driver, having surpassed the 150 Grand Prix mark… is he aiming for the 200th?

“Such statistics mean a lot, but you always don’t want to admit it. In reality, what interests you are the results, the most impressive statistics, like the number of podiums, poles, wins, or championships. Those are the kinds of statistics you dream about growing up, not the number of races you’ve participated in. In the end, having been in Formula 1 for so many years and participated in so many races is a significant milestone, an achievement, but it’s not something I dreamed about as a child.”

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