Rich Energy Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen delivered a strong points-paying performance Sunday in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit by finishing a best-of-the-rest sixth in the 58-lap race around the 5.303-kilometer (3.295-mile), 16-turn track. Teammate Romain Grosjean was unable to join Magnussen in the points, as a loose left-front wheel ended his race after 29 laps.
The trio of perennial series leaders – five-time and reigning champion Mercedes, 16-time champion Scuderia Ferrari and four-time champion Red Bull – comprised the top-five, making sixth the best result possible.
Magnussen earned the finishing position thanks to his start. After qualifying behind Grosjean in seventh, Magnussen overtook his teammate on the straight down into turn one as Grosjean was forced to fend off a charging Nico Hulkenberg, who had taken his Renault from 11th on the grid to eighth.
Magnussen soon pulled out a comfortable margin, allowing him to pit on lap 14 for a new set of Pirelli P Zero Yellow medium tires. This dropped Magnussen down to 12th but ahead of Hulkenberg, who made his scheduled pit stop a lap earlier. Still, the difference between the two combatants was extremely tight. As Magnussen came off pit road, he had to keep Hulkenberg at bay even as the Renault driver tried to get alongside Magnussen in turn three.
Grosjean, meanwhile, made his pit stop on lap 15, but it proved to be a long one as there was a delay in getting the left-front tire attached. This dropped Grosjean to 14th and served as a precursor to his retirement.
As other drivers pitted, Magnussen moved back up the leaderboard, but his forward progress was halted on lap 17 as he became stuck behind the yet-to-pit Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi. Magnussen finally made his way past Giovinazzi on lap 18 to take ninth, but the logjam allowed Hulkenberg to close the gap and fill Magnussen’s mirrors once again.
But just as Magnussen had to find a way past Giovinazzi, so did Hulkenberg, and this enabled Magnussen to build another comfortable margin.
By lap 37, all the meaningful pit stops had cycled through and Magnussen was back in his rightful position of sixth. He went unchallenged for the remaining 21 laps, crossing the stripe with a nearly four-second advantage over seventh-place Hulkenberg. It was Magnussen’s best result in the Australian Grand Prix since he finished second in 2014, and it equaled Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s best finish in the Australian Grand Prix, which came care of Grosjean in the squad’s 2016 debut.
The resulting eight points from Magnussen’s effort placed Rich Energy Haas F1 Team fourth in the constructors’ standings, two points ahead of fifth-place Renault and seven points behind third-place Red Bull.
Romain Grosjean: “I don’t know what happened exactly yet. It just felt wrong. It’s not been a good day. Before all that I was happy and up behind Kevin (Magnussen). The new rules are great for following another car, but the tires are still what they were last year, as you push, you slide, then you lose grip. Even though we can follow easier than in the past, overtaking is still complicated. Overall, today’s a shame as we’ve looked strong all weekend long, we were strong in the race as well.”
Kevin Magnussen: “I’m very happy about today, it was a good result. I’m obviously sad for team not to have both cars get to the finish. Surely Romain (Grosjean) would have been in a good position as well, especially after we both had such good qualifying yesterday, so I’m gutted for his side that they didn’t get anything out of today. P6 for me is very good, I’m happy with the day. I made a good start and had a really good car from there. I was able to push the whole race and look after my tires. I’m really happy to start the year like this.”
Guenther Steiner: “Mixed emotions today. Deja-vu from last year on Romain’s (Grosjean) car it looks like, a pit stop gone wrong. Last year, after Australia, we went 20 races – the rest of the season, without another pit stop issue. We’re a little bit unlucky here, we’ll have to investigate what happened, it’s too early to say right now. On the other side, Kevin (Magnussen) finishing sixth is a great achievement for the team. We know the car is strong. This year we take eight points away from Melbourne, last year we were last going away from Australia. It’s better than 2018. I think with this car we can be strong in all the remaining 20 races.”