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‘I feel fit this year, I felt very bad actually last year’

Kevin Magnussen says he is heading into the 2023 Formula 1 season much better prepared than he was for his surprise return 12 months ago.

His comeback at Haas was announced one day before the second pre-season test and 11 days before the first race of 2022. Having previously driven for the team from 2017 to 2020, Magnussen returned as a replacement for the ousted Nikita Mazepin, on a mutli-year deal.

Magnussen’s 2022 campaign started on a high with a fifth place. But having expected to race in the World Endurance Championship the physical demands of racing in F1 again came as an unexpected surprise. He had to immerse himself into the team in a short timeframe after missing the first test.

He says he’s in much better shape this time around. “I feel very different,” Magnussen admitted in response to a question from RaceFans at this year’s sole pre-season test. “I feel fit, for one. I just prepared, I’ve been in the loop over the winter and it’s very different.”

Having done minimal training ahead of his short-notice return last year, Magnussen said he’s feeling the benefit of having more preparation this time around. “Doing these days of testing I don’t feel tired,” he said. “It is really a very nice thing.

“It’s good to see, have a bit of a back-to-back test of what training actually does so you can feel motivated even more to do it.”

“I felt very bad actually last year,” he admitted, “so it’s good, it’s nice to hit the ground running.”

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In addition to feeling better in himself through the test compared to last year, Magnussen is also encouraged by the progress Haas has made with its new VF-23 compared to last year’s race.

“But again, we’re competing against other people and we’re hoping that they don’t feel so good,” he added warily. “But we’ll see. I mean, it’s testing. We try to keep our mind away from concluding where we are or anything like that, and just focus on testing and learning.”

On the final day of the test, Magnussen recorded 95 laps in the afternoon and he “only came out [of the car] just to go to the toilet and get straight back in”. Completing a grand prix simulation and almost another race-worth of laps in that time not only showed that Magnussen was physically back in race-ready shape but also highlighted how productive the test was for Haas.

“We’ve had a good three days, lots of running, and we’ve learned the things that we wanted to learn,” he said. “You always want more, of course, but there’s going to be a lot of analysing and digging into the data in this week between now and the race.”

Having completed all of the base tests of the car’s reliability and performance they needed to conduct, Magnussen said Haas had time to “get into some balance work, like some set-up fine-tuning.

“Especially this [final] afternoon here, we were treating it like more of a performance exercise to try and get a little bit more balance out of it. That’s the more interesting part of testing, I’ll say. It reacts nicely. And especially on low fuel on those new tyres, it was fun. It felt good.”

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