F1 News: Kevin Magnussen encouraged by Baku pace

BAKU CITY CIRCUIT, AZERBAIJAN - APRIL 30: Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23 during the Azerbaijan GP at Baku City Circuit on Sunday April 30, 2023 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mark Sutton / LAT Images)

Kevin Magnussen left Azerbaijan with a bitter taste in his mouth, frustrated that he was unable to capitalise on the performance of his VF-23.

Haas F1 began the year with a difficult Grand Prix in Bahrain, failing to look after their tyres in race-trim and being unable to replicate impressive qualifying pace.

However, consecutive points in Jeddah and Bahrain have demonstrated the VF-23 can also be competitive throughout a race distance, at least with the correct set-up.

The importance of optimising the car is significant in this case, given that Nico Hulkenberg’s tyre wear completely fell off the cliff in the Baku Sprint.

The 35-year-old was willing to make suspension changes under parc ferme and start the race from the pitlane to pursue a more feasible direction for race-trim.

No such changes were necessary for Magnussen, who spent most of his afternoon stuck in traffic – as he explained to the media post-race:

“We were stuck in traffic the whole race. We had pace for much more, but just couldn’t pass.

“Unfortunately, with the [rear] wing we have, it’s really fast with no DRS, but with DRS, it doesn’t really have a big impact.

“Overtaking is very difficult; defending is pretty good because, without DRS, we’re pretty fast.

“That little detail made the difference today because I think looking at the cars ahead, I was way quicker than them but just couldn’t get past.

“A bit of the same story as last year as we were in the points until the end but this year, we had even more pace. Hopefully, that carries onto Miami, and we will try again.”

Magnussen’s description was mirrored by many drivers in the midfield, who struggled to overtake Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg – two drivers that spent almost the entire race on hard tyres.

However, this does not detract from a relatively encouraging weekend for Haas in terms of their overall competitiveness.

The American squad is clearly not out of its depth fighting against the likes of McLaren, Alpine and Alfa Romeo.

In order to sustain this, it will be imperative for them to introduce mid-season upgrades and prevent themselves from falling behind in the development race.