MARCH 11, 2022
New Magnussen contract is for several years
Kevin Magnussen admits it is pure luck and good will that means he'll be returning to the Formula 1 grid next weekend.
The Dane lost his Haas seat at the end of 2019, when the small American team decided to pair rookie Mick Schumacher with well-funded Russian driver Nikita Mazepin.
Mazepin had even begun testing the Russian tricolour themed 2022 car before the Ukraine crisis broke out and western institutions began to sanction Russian entities, oligarchs and even athletes like the 23-year-old.
Multiple suitors were linked with the sudden vacancy, but team boss Gunther Steiner insists he actually spoke to none of them - except Magnussen, 29.
"Nobody (else), no," he said in Bahrain. "As I said, I have faith in Kevin."
Steiner said it would be wrong to call the contract talks with Magnussen "easy", but that probably has more to do with the driver's non-F1 contractual arrangements for 2022.
For instance, he was under contract not only to Peugeot's new Le Mans setup, but also Chip Ganassi in US-based sports car racing.
"We had to sort out a few things," Magnussen admits, "but I'm very grateful to Chip and Peugeot for their cooperation.
"Without them, I wouldn't be in the Bahrain GP but the sports car classic in Sebring. There was no Formula 1 clause in my contracts.
"It's only thanks to the good will of Ganassi and Peugeot that I can be here," he said in Bahrain.
"They didn't take pleasure in letting me go but they know what it means to me."
Magnussen said he was about to go on holiday with his family when Steiner suddenly called him.
"I still flew to Miami because I didn't think it would happen, but then Gunther called again and said 'let's do it'. So I got on the next plane to Bahrain," he revealed.
"I've come back to F1 for several years. That's the thing," Magnussen insisted. "I didn't want to come back just for a year."
Could it be that Steiner actually regrets ever signing the ill-fated Russian deals with Mazepin and Uralkali?
"I wouldn't put it that way," he insisted. "It was - then - the right thing to do.
"We already knew that 2021 would be a difficult year with a not very good car, but we now feel that we can find our way up again.
"That's why we wanted to have an experienced person."
Magnussen admitted that a year out of F1 means his neck will be "dead" after a full day of F1 testing, but he is delighted to have Michael Schumacher's son as his teammate.
"Mick grew up with racing blood and I know how that feels," said Kevin, whose father Jan raced in Formula 1 in the 90s.
Magnussen denied, however, that his role will include mentoring the young Schumacher.
"I'm not supposed to be a mentor," he said. "I'm supposed to drive good races, develop the car, score points.
"Of course, part of that is the relationship with your teammate, but in the end you race against each other."