Haas’ new F1 high could have been even better

With fourth place on the grid in Miami, Kevin Magnussen delivered the best qualifying performance so far for himself and the Haas team in the Formula 1 season.

But while Haas showed top 10 pace all weekend, thanks in part to his ground upgrade, Nico Hulkenberg should have been up there with his teammate as well.

As Magnussen admitted, “I got a bit lucky” as the red flag caused by Charles Leclerc’s fall didn’t stop anyone from getting a second run. It’s likely he would have been relegated to seventh at best, contingent on overtaking Alpine drivers and Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas again in his second heat.

Magnussen was the quickest of the five riders who rode used softs in heat one in Q3, with his banker lap being key to a second row spot. It was a “pretty decent lap” putting him ahead of the potentially faster Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, Bottas, George Russell and also Leclerc and Max Verstappen, both of whom made mistakes on their first few runs.

This was the third time Haas had a car in Q3 in 2023 and a significant improvement from Baku last weekend where both cars were eliminated in Q1.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Miami Grand Prix Qualifying Day Miami, USA

Magnussen attributed this improved form to the fact that the car has been working well from the start of practice, together with the effects of the soil improvement introduced this weekend. This is the first performance upgrade Haas has introduced this season, although Azerbaijan introduced a track-specific, low-drag rear wing.

“We’ve just been consistently strong this weekend,” Magnussen told Sky Sports F1. “And not just in terms of lap times – when you look at the results from every session, it’s so good – but just the feeling was there from the start.

“We got the car out on track and it worked. We didn’t really touch it, a little bit [of] Optimizations and that was really good. And then we brought an upgrade that worked. So I’m happy with P4 tomorrow and hope we can finish it and get some points.”

The reason for the disappointment in half the Haas box was that teammate Nico Hülkenberg should have been there in Q3 as well. He was a quarter of a second quicker than Magnussen in heat one in Q2 when both Haas drivers were on used softs. The duo took sixth and seventh place.

But while Magnussen improved by 0.480s on his second run on fresh soft ground, Hulkenberg’s lap was ruined by a time loss due to lack of front tire grip at Turn 1, resulting in him not even coming close to the exit. He abandoned the lap heading into Turn 11 when it became clear that improving his time was impossible.

Formula 1 2023: Miami Gp

Hulkenberg blamed it on Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, who passed him near Turn 17, saying over the radio on his deceleration lap: “Every time Alonso has passed us twice now.”

Hulkenberg had started his outlap in front of Alonso, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon behind him. He caught Max Verstappen at Turn 11 and held position behind him, but slowed down the long haul to Turn 17 when he was briefly assisted by Verstappen. Alonso then jumped him as he approached what was effectively the final corner.

“I feel really, really frustrated and upset,” Hulkenberg said. “We have to check what happened in the outlap and how we got into this awkward situation with Fernando and Esteban, but in the end I lost a lot for that.

“I somehow had to stop the car in the last corner to get a gap. As soon as you go slow there, there’s something with that asphalt. The tire picks up a lot of dirt and when I opened the lap I just didn’t have the grip I needed.

“I was a second behind in the first sector and stopped the lap. [There was] much more possible, Q3 should have been very easy. It’s very frustrating.”

Hulkenberg said that Alonso’s and Ocon’s closing speed behind it was significant enough to possibly have caused an accident if he had attempted to defend himself. This was the result of Verstappen and Hulkenberg picking up speed on the straight and then slowing down.

Formula 1 2023: Miami Gp

“I made a gap to Max and then Fernando and Esteban came in from behind with so much overspeed.

“These mirrors, they’re better, they’re bigger, but you still see the car so late when they come and they’re approaching at 100km/h. There is nothing more you can do and obviously you cannot block them.

“Like there would be a massive shunt in a race.”

Hulkenberg will start 12th and could have a shot at points given the Haas’ pace so far this weekend. However, Magnussen is far better positioned.

Much will depend on how well the Haas treats its tires in the race, but Magnussen is realistic about the race. There are faster cars behind him that he can’t beat in a head-to-head battle, Leclerc and Verstappen for example, but he’s confident of settling into the car’s rightful place at or near the top of the midfield and believes that a ” Top eight, top seven” would be possible in a well-run race.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Miami Grand Prix Qualifying Day Miami, USA

The Haas has also performed relatively well in speed traps throughout the season, which should allow it to hold its own against more direct competitors from Mercedes, Alpine and Alfa Romeo. The Haas was the fourth fastest car in qualifying in the main speed trap, behind only Red Bull, Williams and Alpine.

“I don’t think we’re fourth fastest, but it’s nice to finish a little further up [than] They have the speed for it,” said Magnussen.

“You can just fall back into your natural position and end it that way.”

Magnussen’s fourth grid position is the highest Haas has ever started at a Grand Prix, although the Dane took official pole position honors at Interlagos last year and started the sprint from the front.


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