Magnussen fastest in F1 testing, 48 hours after Haas call-up
Kevin Magnussen said it felt like “I hadn’t been away” after making an eye-catching return to Formula One on Friday when he topped the times in pre-season testing in Bahrain, just 48 hours after replacing Nikita Mazepin at Haas.
Magnussen, dropped by Haas last season, signed a multi-year contract to take over from the Russian driver who was sacked following his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
And the 29-year-old Dane showed no signs of ring rustiness in his first day in a F1 car in over a year as he set the fastest lap of 1min 33.207sec in the more favourable cooler conditions of early evening at the Sakhir circuit.
As the other teams were bedding their cars down for the night with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz setting the quickest time Haas were allowed an extra hour due to freight delays which saw them miss Thursday’s first session.
“It was so good to be back in a Formula 1 car and so good to be back with the team,” said Magnussen.
His late late show triggered a Twitter dig from Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson who races now in Indy Cars but spent four seasons in F1 with Caterham and Sauber from 2014-2019.
First day in an F1 car for 15 months and sets the fastest lap.
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) March 11, 2022
“A month ago Kmag tested @IndyCar at Sebring and was slowest. Now first day back in F1 and he’s fastest. Must mean @IndyCar is a lot harder and more competitive then @F1. Clearly settles that discussion once and for all,” Ericsson posted.
Before Magnussen struck it was Sainz for Ferrari who had cut a dash on the second day of testing with Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen leading the chasing pack almost half a second slower.
Lance Stroll for Aston Martin came next ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel of the Mercedes which with its radical ‘no sidepods’ design has been the talk of the paddock.
Remarks attributed to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner from a German magazine on Thursday appeared to question the legality of the German constructors’ 2022 car.
But at Friday’s press conference Horner hailed Mercedes “innovative” interpretation of the new technical rules, insisting that “the comments quoted certainly weren’t made.”
“As far as we are concerned the Mercedes car looks like it complies with the regulations, just a different interpretation, different solution,” he said.
“It’s an interesting concept, it’s a radical concept. So it is quick or not, only time will tell, but in terms of compliance, it’s very much an FIA matter.”
Hamilton’s new teammate George Russell, meanwhile, suggested that Ferrari were looking “globally the strongest” team.
But Sainz for one wasn’t totally convinced about the British driver’s take on the timings.
“I think it’s typical Mercedes, typical George, just hype the others and then come to the first race and blow the competition away,” the Spaniard said.
“If it would be the first year they have done it, I would maybe believe them but they have done it for 5-6 years now and they keep surprising us in the first race so, as you can imagine, I don’t believe much.”
He then suggested that judging by GPS data, Mercedes had plenty left up their sleeves to unleash back in Bahrain for next weekend’s season opener.
Daniel Ricciardo was absent for the second day running due to illness with Lando Norris behind the wheel of the McLaren.
🗣 @LandoNorris: "Despite the challenges we’ve made the most of what we could do today." 👊
Hear from the rest of the team after day two of #F1Testing. 👇
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 11, 2022
The team later reported that the Australian had tested positive for COVID-19 but was feeling better.
“Daniel is therefore continuing to isolate in accordance with local regulations. Under these regulations Daniel will be released in time for next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix,” McLaren announced in a statement.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, meanwhile, has triggered a spike in energy prices prompting teams to question the new budget caps.
“I think it’s a very real problem because we’re already seeing extremely high inflation,” commented Horner.
“What you have to remember is when the budget cap was set back in the midst of the pandemic — in the middle of 2020 — nobody could have foreseen the circumstances we have in the world today.”
Teams’ budgets were reduced from $145 million last year to $140M this season and $135M in 2023.