Kevin Magnussen gained a reputation for being F1’s “bad boy” during 2017. It wasn’t entirely undeserved, but he also put in some strong performances in his first year with Haas.
His first collision with a rival made just four corners into the opening race, when Magnussen slithered wide off a kerb and thumped into Marcus Ericsson. By the end of the year he’d earned the wrath of a string of others including Daniil Kvyat (Spain), Nico Hulkenberg (Hungary) and Fernando Alonso (Malaysia).
|Beat team mate in qualifying||7/19|
|Beat team mate in race||7/13|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||490/868|
Some of these moves plainly over-stepped the mark, such as his swerve towards Hulkenberg at the Hungaroring which earned him a penalty and led to a memorable post-race exchange of words. On other occasions he did himself more harm than good.
And, less frequently, Magnussen pulled off moves which were simply terrific. His bold lunge up the inside of Felipe Massa at Suzuka’s turn two was sheer opportunistic brilliance.
Magnussen had to make moves like these because he generally fared less well than team mate Romain Grosjean in qualifying. There were times he dropped out in Q1 while Grosjean reached the top ten.
But Magnussen kept his fellow ex-Renault driver honest in the races. He seemed not to suffer as badly as Grosjean when the Haas wasn’t at its best, though nor did he hit quite the same heights as his team mate.
Along with a trio of eighth-placed finishes, Magnussen scored a season best seventh at Baku, on a weekend when Grosjean struggled very badly as Haas struggled to make their tyres work on the low-grip track. They fared much better at the next round in Austria where Grosjean was at his best and reliability problems scuppered Magnussen’s efforts.
His bold moves on track were matched by a penchant for aggressive tyre strategies, particularly in mixed conditions. Magnussen could usually be relied on to be among the first to risk slicks on a damp track, and so it proved in Singapore. Unfortunately it didn’t pay off.
But he took his final points finish of the year in Mexico with another run which punched above his car’s weight. He came home eighth, out-running Lewis Hamilton’s delayed Mercedes.
With more days like this and fewer reckless moments Magnussen could give Grosjean some headaches in 2018.
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He is certainly the most exciting driver in the field, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Struggles in qualifying have lead him starting below where he should be, and whilst he can produce some ballsy overtakes, a lot of the time it instead leads to dirty driving at the cost of himself and his rivals.
What’s your verdict on Kevin Magnussen’s 2017 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than him? Have your say in the comments.
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