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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Kevin Magnussen: F1 needs to be more competitive with more teams fighting at front

The Haas driver frustrated by sport's current situation where the Mercedes-GP, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing cars dominate

Kevin Magnussen is content with his first season with the Haas team. Christopher Pike / The National
Kevin Magnussen is content with his first season with the Haas team. Christopher Pike / The National

As 2017 draws to a close, it is that time of year when thoughts stretch forward to New Year's resolutions and to ambitions for the next 12 months.

In the world of Formula One, which is now in its off-season following the final round of the 2017 campaign at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen has one simple wish.

The Dane wants the sport to become more competitive in terms of more cars being able to challenge at the front after being a part of a year dominated by three teams in the shape of Mercedes-GP, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing.

In the 20 races held this year, Williams driver Lance Stroll was the only racer to stand on the podium at a grand prix, when he was third in Azerbaijan in June, not driving for one of the top three teams.

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Magnussen, who finished 14th in the drivers' championship in his first season with Haas, scored 29 points with his best result seventh in Baku.

The 25-year-old driver felt he drove well during the year, but the imbalance in performance levels from the top teams to the rest of the grid meant it was hard to back that up in terms of points scored and it is something he hopes changes in the near future.

"It is very frustrating. It is something that I would like to see change in Formula One," he said. "Of course you are going to have the best teams, the biggest teams, they are going to be the ones who win the championships and be at the top most regularly.

"But I think it would be good if it could be a little bit closer so as a midfield or smallest team if you had a mega race you should be able to get a little more of it."

Magnussen said he found it frustrating that the limit for most drivers in the field appeared to be finishing seventh or eighth, and just being content with taking a points finish, even when they had performed to their maximum.

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"Today, you can have a brilliant race and be the best on track and perform to your best and you still finish eighth or whatever, even if the team has the best job that they can do," he said.

"You just don't have the car to do it so I would love to have a bit more of a closer field."

While Magnussen wishes he could be fighting nearer the front, he is largely content with life in his first year with Haas, the American team which joined F1 in 2016.

"I felt pretty much at home from the first day," said Magnussen, who has previously driven for McLaren and Renault. "It is a very cool team. I feel good here."

Magnussen partnered French driver Romain Grosjean and had five top-10 finishes in all. However, he believes his pace and that of the team, who were eighth in the constructors' championship, was better than their overall results indicated.

"I think it has been a pretty good year. We have had some good races, some races we could have done better but we have another chance next year," he said.

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"We had other races where our performance was stronger, but we didn't get as good a result for whatever reason. I think our car has been very good at certain points but we have been lacking some consistency."

Magnussen has proven popular with race fans, if not other drivers, for his willingness to go wheel-to-wheel on track and fight for track position in an age when overtaking remains difficult.

He has also been unafraid to stand up for himself in public when criticised. His public exchange of words with Renault's Nico Hulkenberg in Hungary in August after the two had clashed during the race being a case in point.

"I can't be anyone else. I just do it the best way I can," Magnussen said. "I enjoy racing and I love those fights on track and as long as I don't have a penalty then it is fine. I don't really care what everyone thinks."

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When it comes to his race craft and his willingness to push hard to overtake, Magnussen feels that is partly due to the fact he is in a midfield car and does not enjoy the kind of performance advantages that drivers such as world champion Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have in their respective Mercedes and Ferrari cars.

"I give it everything and I try to get results," he said. "It is not like I can drive easily into the points and be safe. I need to take risks and go hard to be in the points."

One thing that Magnussen has relished is driving the 2017 cars, which thanks to bigger tyres and aerodynamic changes meant they were up to three or four seconds faster at some tracks.

"The basic reason you are in Formula One is that you love driving," he said. "When you have a faster car, the childish passion comes up again.

"I think they have been a lot more fun to drive. There has been a lot more grip and we can push a lot harder than with the older cars."

Magnussen is enjoying the off-season, with action not restarting until pre-season testing in February. The opening race of 2018, the Australian Grand Prix, is on March 25.

As to his targets for his second year with Haas, he is somewhat realistic with it expected to be more of the same at the front with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

"We want to be more regularly in the midfield and pushing towards the top end of the midfield and then we will see what happens," he said.