Formula 1 Racing

Chris Harris on Kevin Magnussen, the Chaos King

Nico Hulkenberg leads Kevin Magnussen and Lewis Hamilton in the Miami GP sprint race

The perennial fascination with Formula One is that even seasoned fans cannot predict the heroes and zeroes of a race weekend. Here we are locked in the doldrums of another Red Bull demonstration season, with news that its genius designer Adrian Newey would rather head to the south of France in a camper van than further endure the seedy goings-on at Milton Keynes (don’t blame him), and who emerges as the real story of the Miami Grand Prix? Lando Norris for his crowd-pleasing first win in F1? Partly. But even he has to acknowledge the force of nature that is Kevin Magnussen.

K-MAG isn’t the Copenhagen street corner rap artist his nick-name suggests, but a pugnacious driver for the Haas team whose evangelical need to defend positions in F1 often leads him into trouble. And so it was in Saturday’s sprint race where he became embroiled in a heated dog-fight with Lewis Hamilton for the final point. Hamilton’s Mercedes clearly had the ECU chip from a 2018 E63 S, because it wasn’t much faster than the sedan down the back straight, allowing K-MAG to render any DRS assistance useless. And so began one of those see-saw battles predicated on two cars with vastly varied levels of performance on different parts of the track.  

This continued for so many laps that we all but forgot Hamilton had been incredibly fortunate not to be penalized for understeering into a couple of Astons and ultimately ending Lando’s sprint race. The television director clearly agreed—Haas’s small band of advertisers must have been whooping for joy as Verstappen and the fast crew were ignored in favor of Magnussen doing whatever was humanly possible, short of lobbing nails out of his cockpit, to keep Lewis behind him. Sprint race naysayers should at this point have admitted it was a far better spectacle than any free practice session

Nico Hulkenberg leads Kevin Magnussen and Lewis Hamilton in the Miami GP sprint race

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The television director continued to ignore the front-runners (Ferrari delivering on its “still not as quick as Red Bull” F1 contract, Ocon and Gasly wanting to kill each other, etc.) as Hamilton made it past K-MAG, only to have the Dane hang-on and cause the first of his—wait for it—three 10 second penalties. Eventually Hamilton got clear, Verstappen won the race, and we’d been granted a few brief glimpses of Danny Ric driving a blinder to secure a totally unexpected 4th…

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