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Magnussen defends owner's decision to oust Steiner

Magnussen defends owner's decision to oust Steiner
© Reuters
While Nico Hulkenberg sounded regretful about Haas boss Gunther Steiner's pre-season sacking, teammate Kevin Magnussen is more upbeat about the new era.

While Nico Hulkenberg sounded regretful about Haas boss Gunther Steiner's pre-season sacking, teammate Kevin Magnussen is more upbeat about the new era.

The American outfit finished dead last in 2023, prompting team owner Gene Haas to differ with Steiner's assessment that the team needs more funding - and oust him.

"I had a great relationship with Gunther, but we didn't grow enough," Magnussen, a long-time and continuing Haas driver, told Sky Italia at the Bahrain test.

"I think this new development will be beneficial," the Dane added.

He applauds the promotion-from-within of Ayao Komatsu, a low-profile engineer who is now in Steiner's shoes as team principal.

Magnussen, though, says the Japanese is still approaching Haas from an engineering perspective - leading to the rare sight of the 2024 car wearing the type of aero sensor array that is commonplace for the other teams.

"Exactly," Magnussen nodded when asked by Ekstra Bladet if it's an early example of the new Komatsu reign.

He said Komatsu has decided that the main priority for the entire three-day pre-season test is to tune the new car so it doesn't burn through the tyres in the races.

"He has so far been very focused on just keeping everyone on track with our task right now," said Magnussen, "which is to improve our situation in the races. Because that is clearly what will give us a better season.

"So why not use our three test days to learn more about that? That's how it's been all pre-season," he explained.

"This also applies to the assessment of expectations internally in the team. We don't dream as much this year," said Magnussen, admitting Komatsu stands in stark contrast to Steiner's outgoing and popular character.

"We know what task lies ahead, the situation we are in, and we deal with it realistically. He (Komatsu) is an engineer. He sees things with different eyes. But a Formula 1 team consists mainly of engineers and they now have someone at the top who speaks the same language.

"Of course Gunther had his own strengths," Magnussen admitted. "Ayao is certainly not the type for commercial matters. But I'm not worried about that.

"I just want a fast racing car."

Magnussen says the 2024 car "feels better" than its two 2023-spec predecessors, "but it will be like that for everyone", he insisted.

More important, he argues, is that Komatsu represents much-needed change at Haas.

"He's not going to throw everything away straight away," said Magnussen. "But it's a positive start that he's always here at the track. It still feels like he's a race engineer, except now he's at the top.

"When the mechanics are working late at night, he's there too. This creates a different dynamic. He's fully focused on making sure everyone is going in the same direction."

Magnussen agrees with Hulkenberg, however, that the new car does not and will not represent a quantum leap for Haas.

"It's very frustrating when you have a fast car on one lap, but can't maintain the speed for a whole stint," he said. "And unfortunately, we don't have any answers yet. But there are clues.

"If we can improve the performance in the race just a little bit, things will look completely different for us."

Magnussen is hoping the new Ferrari-supplied rear suspension layout will help with that.

"We are still exploring it, but it looks positive," he said.

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Nico Hulkenberg at the Abu Dhabi GP on November 25, 2023
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