Kevin Magnussen admits that if it were not for the introduction of new regulations from 2022, he would have “hesitated” on a return.
The Danish racer made himself an experienced Formula 1 driver with his first stint in the series, completing spells with McLaren and then Renault before joining Haas.
But, after four seasons with Haas, Magnussen would depart Formula 1 at the end of the 2020 season, explaining that he was missing that winning feeling having only scored one podium finish.
However, when Haas removed Nikita Mazepin from the line-up during 2022 pre-season testing, the door opened for a Magnussen return to Formula 1 and Haas, an offer which he accepted.
Magnussen returned to Formula 1 at a time of uncertainty, a major regulatory overhaul creating the potential for the pecking order to also receive a shake-up.
Indeed, after failing to score a point in 2021, often lagging at the back, Haas found themselves right back in the fight for points at the 2022 season-opener in Bahrain, Magnussen claiming a P5 finish.
Magnussen revealed that Haas team boss Guenther Steiner made no promises about Haas’ prospects in a new landscape for Formula 1, but without these fresh regulations coming into effect, Magnussen would probably have thought twice about returning.
“I think that if there hadn’t been that whole thing about the new regs and if Haas had been where they were last year, and the rules would have continued like this for another five years, I would have probably hesitated,” Magnussen told Motorsport.com.
“But I really saw it as an opportunity. There were no guarantees, Gunther didn’t promise anything. But he explained what they’ve done and how they spent their focus in the last couple of years.
“When I was here even in 2020, it was already clear that that would be the plan. So I was excited about that and I thought, yeah, this could be good.”
Although Magnussen described his time away from the series in 2021 as “one of the best years of my life”, the Dane taking a win and a pole in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, he concedes that “there’s only one Formula 1”.
And, in that year, it became increasingly apparent to him just how big the series is and what it means to be a Formula 1 driver.
“I’ve said many times, actually, last year was kind of one of the best years of my life,” said the Haas driver.
“I was excited to get back to fighting for pole position and race wins every weekend. But there’s only one Formula 1. Nothing else is like Formula 1.
“It’s such a big thing to get to be a Formula 1 driver. That’s one of the things I really started realising last year when I wasn’t in it.
“When you see from the outside, you realise how many people watch it and how many people talk about it during the race weekends at home. So I started to really appreciate that and it kind of hit me, how big it is.
“Then to come back into it, I appreciate it much more being at every race. I pay attention to how many spectators there are and how big it is.”
But with the new rules yet to make Formula 1 less predictable as intended, will Kevin Magnussen change his mind?
The current regulations were designed to tighten up the pack, not only by restricting the design freedom, but also with a return to ground effect aerodynamics in an effort to reduce the amount of dirty air being produced by the cars, thus allowing drivers to follow more closely and deliver better overtaking action.
And coupled with the budget cap, the intent was to make the battle for poles and victories in Formula 1 more open. So far though, this has not happened.
With 13 rounds gone of the 2022 season, only Red Bull and Ferrari have won a grands prix, while Mercedes’ George Russell is the only driver outside of Red Bull and Ferrari to be on pole in 2022.
Recently Fernando Alonso described Formula 1 as still being too “boring”, and unless Haas can escape the midfield and start challenging at the front, or an opportunity opens up for Magnussen at a team elsewhere which could achieve that goal, then it is to be expected that the novelty of this Formula 1 return will wear off and Magnussen will miss winning once again.
Haas best hope then that they can preserve this ‘happy to be here’ mentality with Magnussen.