Season review: How a car concept hampered Magnussen during his 2023 season

Published on 8 December 2023 at 20:00

Kevin Magnussen endured a season to forget in his second year with Haas, being outperformed by teammate Nico Hulkenberg for the majority of the season.


The Dane was heading into his second season with Haas with his head high. Between himself and the American team, they massively overperformed - considering their dismal 2021 season.


The 31-year-old would not have Mick Schumacher as his teammate - like in 2022. The German would be replaced by fellow German Nico Hulkenberg - a more experienced driver.


Despite his difficult season, Magnussen will remain with the American team until the end of 2024 - same for Hulkenberg also.


What went well?


Magnussen's season was not going well - the Dane was clearly struggling with the car. However, after a change in concept with the VF-23, the 31-year-old was able to extract much more from the car.


The Haas driver managed to accumulate three points throughout the entire season. The Dane managed to drive a strong race in Saudi Arabia - the second round - finishing in 10th, scoring his first point of the season.


Magnussen would achieve another points finish at the Miami Grand Prix. The 31-year-old, once again, finished in 10th to add another point for his 2023 season tally.


However, the Dane would go on a nine-race point drought up until the Singapore Grand Prix. Magnussen would score his final point of the season at the Marina Bay Circuit.


The Singapore Grand Prix was the first race where the Haas driver felt comfortable with the car. The VF-23 finally suited his driving style.


Despite not scoring anymore points for the rest of the season, Magnussen was a lot more closer to Hulkenberg with the pair's performances.


With the Dane improving and the German worsening, Haas decided to run two different specs for the final two rounds of the season. This was not to gather data, as it was simply to give both of their drivers maximum comfort with the car.


Why didn't the car suit him?


Many were left puzzled as to why Magnussen was not performing to the level he was in 2022. The Dane was being constantly outperformed by Nico Hulkenberg, especially in qualifying.


The reason as to the pair's significant difference in performances was due to the car's philosophy. The 2023 season revealed that Magnussen and Hulkenberg have completely different driving styles.


Hulkenberg enjoyed driving the VF-23 with it benefitting his V-style approach into corners. However, Magnussen prefers a 'U-style' when negotiating corners. This style is taking a smoother and more rounded line throughout the phases of the turn. This style is good for maintaining higher minimum speeds through corners.


However, the Dane's problem was that the car could not execute his style effectively. The car simply did not have good enough handling - from braking on the entry of a corner and dealing with the corner turn in.


The VF-23 struggled with the 31-year-old's driving style as the car would lose stability through the demand of braking and rotational forces at the same time.


Therefore, the V-style approach was better suited for the VF-23. To do this, drivers must brake in a straight line to slow the car down. Then a sharper turn in is required before straightening up the wheel and accelerating out of the corner.


highlights and low points 


Despite Magnussen having a difficult season overall, he had some good moments in 2023. His best qualifying session was at the team's home race in Miami. The Dane would go on to qualify in an impressive fourth. The Miami Grand Prix would be the 31-year-old's best weekend, finishing in the points also.


The Haas driver would also reach Q3 in Singapore and Las Vegas. He would finish in the points at the Marina Bay Circuit - with him being much more comfortable with the VF-23. However, he would fail to capitalise on his Q3 appearance in Las Vegas, finishing out of the points.


As mentioned before, on the other hand, Magnussen did not endure a good 2023 season. The Dane would have a handful of DNF's, including crashing out of the Mexico City and Sao Paulo Grand Prix.


Qualifying has been a big weakness for Magnussen this year - compared to his teammate. Hulkenberg managed to reach Q3 eight times, including an incredible front row qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix.


Compared to his German teammate's eight Q3 appearances, the Dane only managed to reach Q3 three times.


Race-wise, it has been a season to forget for Haas in general - not only Magnussen. The VF-23 simply had poor tyre degradation, leading to both drivers dropping from the pack, despite sometimes having a great qualifying.


Magnussen's low-point would come after the Miami Grand Prix. The Dane felt hopeless with the car not suiting his driving style. He would go on a nine-race point drought up until the Singapore Grand Prix.


how does magnussen improve next year?


Magnussen is a very experienced driver already in Formula 1. Therefore, there is no doubt that he can bounce back stronger next year. However, there are some factors that will affect the Dane's season next year.


First of all, Haas needs to improve their car from 2023. The VF-23 left both drivers vulnerable in the race with its poor tyre wear, leading to them dropping down the order.


Secondly, a decision will have to be made with how Magnussen drivers next year's challenger. He will either have a car that suits him or he will have to adapt his driving style to the car's needs.


The Dane cannot afford to have another season blaming the car not suiting his driving style. If he does so, he may well end up without a seat for the 2025 season.


Qualifying is an aspect that is needed to be improved for 2024. The 31-year-old was outclassed by Hulkenberg in terms of raw speed - not a good look for him.




Magnussen will not be happy with how his season would have gone. It is safe to say that Hulkenberg was the better driver throughout the 2023 campaign.


The Dane only finished on three points - scoring points in Jeddah, Miami and Singapore - compared to Hulkenberg's nine. The pair's race head-to-head ended 13-9 in Hulkenberg's favour.


Qualifying would see Hulkenberg have a much stronger head-to head. The German ended the season 15-7 in the qualifying head-to-head against Magnussen, who struggled in qualifying.


Therefore, I believe that the 31-year-old has had an underwhelming season with improvement urgently needed for next season.


Nathan Hartley

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