Is Magnussen 2018’s most underrated driver?

Kevin Magnussen currently sits 9th in the drivers standings and has had 4 top six finishes this season, so why isn’t aren’t his performances being talked about in the same way as the likes of Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc?

The first obvious explanation is that bot Pierre and Charles are in their rookie seasons whereas Kevin is in his 4th but after that the comparisons are hard to make. Magnussen was originally a part of the McLaren young driver beating the likes of current McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne and Ex-Red Bull junior Antonio Felix Da Costa in the junior categories. Magnussen impressed McLaren enough that they opted to replace Sergio Perez with the Dane for the 2014 season and he delivered by scoring a podium on his debut and the last for McLaren to date.

2014 Australia @McLaren.jpg
3rd place became 2nd after Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified for a fuel flow infringement.  Copyright: McLaren F1 disqualifed

After a troubled season Magnussen found himself in a reserve role for McLaren in 2015 with 1 stand-in event in place of an injured Alonso but would be dropped completely by McLaren at the end of the season. Magnussen endured an uncompetitive season with Renault in 2016 before finding himself with his current team Haas.

After an inconspicuous season in 2017 Magnussen had a lot to prove in 2018, winter testing looked good for the team and appeared to have the 4th fastest car. Come Melbourne this would prove to be true with both Haas cars starting in the top ten and with Magnussen 5th after a 3-place penalty for home hero Ricciardo. Magnussen was solid throughout the race, he would find himself 4th following a mistake from Magnussen and with overtaking difficult in Melbourne he looked good to stay there. Mistakes in both Haas pit stops however meant that Magnussen nor his teammate Romain Grosjean could finish the race chucking away 22 points for the team.

Magnussen bounced back in Bahrain with a superb 5th but was eclipsed by Pierre Gasly who finished just in-front of him, China would see him finish 10th after a safety car ruined his strategy but made it his second point score in a row. Azerbaijan would be the first of his headlining performances but unfortunately for the wrong reasons, in a battle with Pierre Gasly it appeared that Magnussen defended too aggressively and almost put the Frenchman in the wall.

If Magnussen made the wrong headlines in Azerbaijan then his teammate would make bigger ones in Spain after a clumsy spin on lap one would eliminate 3 drivers and spell a 5th consecutive race without scoring a point. This would again overshadow the 6th place finish scored by Magnussen but the Haas driver was enjoying his best form of his career to date.

Magnussen appeared to have the measure of his teammate in the first 5 races of the season scoring 13 points to Grosjean’s 0. Romain is a highly rated driver in his own right, he fared well against his world champion teammate Raikkonen when they were teammates at Lotus but headline crashes overshadow his results.

Haas would have a slump in performance in Monaco and Canada and would fail to score points in both races but the following 3 races would prove even stronger. 6th in Canada followed by 5th in Austria would make Magnussen best of the rest behind the big three teams but once again his 5th place finish would be overshadowed by his teammate finishing 4th and scoring his first points of the season.

@Haas.jpg
Copyright: Haas F1 Team

Austria would see the pendulum swing towards his teammate Grosjean who appeared to have found his confidence again but Magnussen wasn’t letting it affect him, he would continue his points scoring consistency and was never too far away from his teammate in the race. Another incident on track would again attract headline for the Dane, another aggressive defensive move in Japan would see himself retire from the race when Leclerc’s front wing would puncture his tyre causing damage to the bodywork and floor of the Haas.

Magnussen has a bad boy reputation; his aggressive overtakes and defensive moves have won him both fans and critics. His James Hunt-esque remarks haven’t endeared him to his fellow competitors but Magnussen isn’t bothered by this. The consequence this has is that it takes away from the performance he has, he is still ahead of his teammate in the drivers championship and still has a chance of winning the “Class-B” championship.

He has only scored one podium in his F1 career to date but Magnussen has a chance of adding to his tally next season, Haas will have a bigger budget thanks to its very likely 5th place finish in the Constructors title and new title sponsor Rich Energy. Magnussen has attributed part of his success to his continuity with the team and an environment that in his opinion is a “proper racing team” unlike the more corporate teams he had raced for in the past. Magnussen should have made more headlines this season for his results but with next year having the potential to be his best yet be sure to see Magnussen showing his best.

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