‘Bummer’ for Kevin Magnussen: ‘Looks like’ VF-23 better suited to Nico Hulkenberg

Michelle Foster
Kevin Magnussen walking down the pit lane after qualifying exit. Bahrain March 2023

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen walking down the pit lane after qualifying exit. Bahrain March 2023

Beaten by his new team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in the season’s first qualifying session, Kevin Magnussen says it “looks like” the Haas is better suited to the German.

That, he concedes, is something he’s going to have to work on.

Last season Magnussen pretty much had it all his own way in qualifying against his team-mate Mick Schumacher but there are signs already this year the Haas team-mate battle will be a lot closer. And in Bahrain it was first blood to Hulkenberg.

Back on the grid in his first full-time role since 2019, Hulkenberg qualified P10 for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix while Magnussen dropped out in Q1, the Dane down in 18th place.

His 1:31.892 in the opening segment was seven-tenths slower than Hulkenberg’s best, the 30-year-old left to watch on as his team-mate progressed through to the final segment.

“I was off somehow on my side of the garage,” he told the media on Saturday night.

“I haven’t really been able to find the groove and then lost a couple of tenths with Perez in the last corner.

“When it’s this close, then it means you’re game over, out of Q1.

“It’s super tight, the whole field is very tight. And that’s great. Of course it’s a bummer for me today but generally it’s a good thing.”

But while Perez may have cost the Dane a few tenths, Magnussen was seven-tenths down on Hulkenberg at the end of Q1.

It’s a gap that he says could be down to the car better suiting the German but rather than be despondent about it he feels it’s something for him to work on.

“Looks like it,” he said when asked if the car was better suited to Hulkenberg. “I’ll try and work on my side and find the switch.

“The car has potential, he’s showing that today. So just got to find that on my side.”

“I think we need to dig a bit deeper. I have my ideas but it’s too early days and I’m not sharing it with you guys.”

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Despite his starting position for Sunday’s 57-lap race, Magnussen is hoping in his Haas VF-23 he has the race-pace needed to chase down a points-paying position.

“It’s one of the things we’ve been really trying to work on,” he said, “at the test and also yesterday and today, so we’ll see how we go.

“It’s probably a good thing for racing in the night.”

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher