Kevin Magnussen delivered another points-paying performance for Haas F1 Team by finishing sixth in the French Grand Prix Sunday at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet. The effort equaled Magnussen’s second-best finish of the season, earned earlier this year at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. It was a best-of-the-rest result, with only the heavy-hitters of Formula One ahead of him, as Mercedes, Red Bull and Scuderia Ferrari comprised the top-five. Magnussen’s teammate, Romain Grosjean, finished just outside the points in 11th.
Both drivers survived a chaotic start to the 53-lap race around the 5.842-kilometer (3.63-mile), 15-turn track that saw incidents through turns one and two and again in corners three and four. Magnussen, who started ninth, rose to fifth, and Grosjean, who started 10th, climbed to eighth.
Grosjean, however, did not escape those opening-lap skirmishes unscathed. Race stewards served him with a five-second penalty for contact with the Force India of Esteban Ocon just past the start/finish line as the field barreled in to turn one. This penalty was served on Grosjean’s only pit stop on lap 34, where he swapped the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tires he started the race with for a new set of Yellow softs. This dropped Grosjean to 16th, but he rallied in the final 19 laps to pick up 11th.
Magnussen, meanwhile, scrapped to stay in the top-five, but after the race restarted on lap six, Kimi Räikkönen maneuvered his Scuderia Ferrari by on lap eight to drop him to sixth. Magnussen held this spot until lap 17 where Räikkönen’s teammate, Sebastian Vettel, made his way past to put Magnussen in seventh.
During this same time, Grosjean lost eighth to Vettel on lap 14 and was soon under threat from the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, who got past Grosjean in turn eight on lap 16. Now in 10th, Grosjean began to see Valterri Bottas’ Mercedes getting bigger in his mirrors. Bottas passed Grosjean for position on lap 19, jettisoning him from the top-10.
Leaders began making their scheduled pit stops on lap 25, and when Carlos Sainz Jr., brought his Renault in for service on lap 26, Magnussen moved to sixth while Grosjean returned to 10th.
Magnussen made his scheduled pit stop on lap 28, swapping his ultrasofts for softs that would carry him to the finish. This dropped Magnussen to 13th while Grosjean rose to ninth. Between the pit stops of others and Magnussen’s tenacity on the track, which included decisive passes of Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley on lap 31 and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne on lap 37, Magnussen was eighth with 16 laps to go.
Sainz was ahead of Magnussen and in the waning laps, the Renault driver reported a loss of power. Magnussen was able to seize on this, passing Sainz on lap 50 and then holding off Bottas, which included a half-lap dash to the finish after the race returned to green following a virtual safety car period for Lance Stroll’s crash in turn 10.
The eight points secured by Magnussen gave Haas F1 Team sole possession of seventh in the constructors’ standings, as the American squad came into the French Grand Prix tied with Toro Rosso for seventh. With 27 points, Haas F1 Team is now just one point behind sixth-place Force India with an eight-point margin over Toro Rosso eight rounds into the 21-race schedule.
Romain Grosjean: “We pushed as hard as we could, but we had some damage on the car from the first lap, and that was difficult because it removed some aero balance. I came back as hard as I could, but we were just too far back. The car is superfast and Kevin did a great job today, so I’m happy with that, but I want my turn to come because this stretch of bad luck is becoming a bit painful.”
Kevin Magnussen: “It was a good race and we had a good car. We got everything right. It was a good race for us, and very happy to come back from the disappointment of yesterday. We knew we were still standing in a position of where we could probably do something good in the race, and it was our day today. I was struggling quite a bit on the ultrasofts there in the first stint, just overheating and sliding around on the rears. For some reason, the front tires were working really well and the rear tires were struggling. Still, the degradation for us was quite low even though the balance was off. When we put the softs on, I kind of started out looking after them a little bit, which then when I got under pressure from Bottas, I really started pushing, and then the tires came alive even more and I found four-tenths, half a second more. It was just what I needed.”
Guenther Steiner: “To finish sixth, we’re very happy about it. We were a little bit lucky that Carlos (Sainz) had an issue there at the end, and a little bit unlucky with Romain because he got a penalty. Now, I hope we can keep this going as we finally have the car where it should be.”