Best of 22: Kevin 'The Viking' Magnussen talks America, friend Renger and his F1 comeback

Best of 22: Kevin ‘The Viking’ Magnussen talks America, friend Renger and his F1 comeback

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Kevin ‘K-Mac’ Magnusson’s comeback is one of the great Formula 1 stories of 2022. After an American hiatus, he’s rejuvenated, unable to keep a smile on his face, and trying to retain his relaxed Americanness. approach to conduct. Racing and traveling with Renger van der Zande, motorsport dreams, cool vibes and does he see himself going back? States.

Formula 1 was always his dream, the ultimate goal he wanted to follow in his father Jan Magnussen’s footsteps. However, father John’s Formula 1 career was short-lived, so he quickly and long-term fled to America. Little Kevin grew up in the pits and paddocks like many drivers’ sons, but for him they were mostly at American circuits like Daytona and Sebring in Florida, Laguna Seca in California, or the Inn. Midwest Tucked into Central Ohio and Road America.

Photo: Motorsport Images

In addition to Formula 1, the younger Magnussen also had an American dream early on. “My dad raced in America for over 20 years, so I had a lot of holidays with my mom to watch my dad race.” Then he ran between all the team tents, or was shown around by his father. “I have so many fond memories of it. So I always enjoy going to America.

Although he couldn’t be there, he was mesmerized by the sight of his father racing in fat Corvettes — which weren’t very American. “I always watched the big races and I stayed up for it. But I couldn’t always stay up late at night. Sometimes I had to sleep,” Dane assures. The last he saw were flashes of his father at races with typical American names, like the 199 Miller Lite 200 or the Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, DC.

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American exodus
So it’s no surprise that when Formula 1 turned out to be a dead end for him, he decided to leave for America himself. In 2015, Magnussen was already close to one Click McLaren pushed the driver to test for IndyCars with Andretti, but braked for the same team when Fernando Alonso was injured. A year later, Renault threw in a lifeline, followed by a switch to Haas. When that sidelined him at the end of 2020, Magnussen crossed the ocean. Ganassi will be joined by Renger van der Zande as team leader this time in the IMSA SportsCar class.

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“It was a good year,” says Magnussen, who is now back in Formula 1 – more on that in a moment – but really recharged his batteries in America, enjoying new adventures and of course racing as hard as ever. “It’s hard to put into words, but whole display More relaxed, more chilled. The paddock is very open, and to the public. I like racing there too. Little The wheel rattles It’s okay in America”, laughs the driver who is sometimes accused of having the most crazy elbow job in Formula 1. “Everything is a bit more relaxed in America, which makes for a good environment. At the end of the day, we drivers are all motorsport fans, and I think you can fulfill your motorsport fantasy a little more or a little differently in America than in Europe and Formula 1.

Photo: Motorsport Images

Like some recent European motorsport immigrants such as ex-Formula 1 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Romain Grosjean, Magnussen relates to old-school American circuits (‘they’re a bit more dangerous’) and vibrations. Ericsson once called IndyCars comparable in terms of atmosphere to the somewhat polished Formula 1 from the Eighties or Nineties. IMSA is not so different, says Magnussen. Lines within teams are narrow, relationships are close. “Ganassi was a great team, everyone was super professional and worked really hard, but still very relaxed. You also felt a kind of loyalty to the team. There is more communication between drivers. “More than Formula 1. It is very open. Everyone is very friendly. “

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Dutch music
Magnussen quickly became good friends with his IMSA teammate van der Zandte. Regularly working Danes and Dutch, this enabled both Magnussen and Van der Zande to spend a lot of time away from home racing in America. “Rengar is a really good driver”, Magnussen insists first. “It surprised me. I thought he wouldn’t be good, but on the contrary, he’s better than I thought. I also learned a lot from him because at IMSA I kept coming to new circuits that I had to learn, while he already knew. That gave me a big measure. .

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Both Magnussen and Van der Zande shared a Cadillac DPI – a Daytona Prototype International – at Ganassi. It went well, but sharing a rental car on the other hand… “We were always ‘fighting’ because neither of us wanted to drive. The team hired me to do qualifying often, then you should practice too. Then I would be in the race car all day and Renger expected me to drive him in the rental car! When it was often an hour’s drive. Me: ‘Listen mate: you sit still all day, drive’. I wanted to rest and slept in the car on the way back.

From sleep or rest, Magnussen can now laugh about it, regardless of who is behind the wheel, often not well. There were frequent disputes over who was allowed to operate the radio and select the music. “Then I said: ‘I already have to drive, you’re not paying me for it, so I choose music’. But Renger always wanted to listen to that bad Dutch techno that he loved. He played a lot of Dutch music, which I didn’t understand.

Magnussen and van der Zandte with team boss Chip Ganassi between them. Photo: Motorsport Images

Cargo bike
Music choice aside, Magnussen and van der Zande can get along well. “We spent a lot of time together. Traveled to races, sat in rental cars, had dinner together. We’re closer Be good friends. We have a lot in common – both are fathers – and look at life the same way. I have a closer relationship with Renger than I would ever have with any other driver. Usually the competitive drive stands in the way of such friendship,” he admits.

Sharing a race car together in an endurance race, Magnussen continues, is no guarantee of true friendship. “There are a lot of drivers who do that, but no real friends. It often goes a little deeper. Even the Magnussen and Van der Zande family vacationed together. “For example, Renger and his wife Carlijn came to Copenhagen and my wife Louise and I showed them around. We rented a cargo bike! ” There is no better way to make a Dutch family feel at home.

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Also, despite their US racing commitments, both van der Sande and Magnussen decided to stay in Europe. If he ends up in Formula 1 in a few years, the Dane has not ruled out racing in America again. However, living there is only a matter of seconds. “I can live there for my business, but I don’t want to impose it on my family. After all, it’s not their choice,” he says. “If only my wife and daughter could say: ‘Man, Dad, we want to go to America. Can’t you work there?’ And then of course I will. Racing wise I wouldn’t want to go back any way, I loved it. But it depends on how my life is going.

Photo: Motorsport Images

A much needed break
From the outside, Magnussen is now living the same life as a Formula 1 driver between 2014 and 2020. His US tour is over, and on his CV it looks like a gap year of sorts. Although it seemed to open Magnusson’s eyes. For example, in his approach to species. He recalled the purest form of racing. “I went to America for fun. That was the main reason. I don’t have any big goals. Of course, every weekend I wanted to win. That was the goal. But it’s not like I’m pursuing some kind of lofty career goal or thinking about money or the future. It’s about having fun.”

Now he is a bystander walking across the paddock, looking at Magnussen. The fun returned, as did the laughter. During his earlier tenure at Haas — now his boss again — he had actually lost his sense of humor. He had to break required And as much as he enjoyed American racing, Magnussen didn’t have to think twice when the opportunity came to return. “Formula 1 is just spectacular. It is very competitive, with the fastest cars in the world to drive. Additionally, Formula 1 is scheduling more and more American races on the calendar. A win-win for Magnuson. “I want to make my family a nice vacation to the races in America.” As he himself often has. “If you have good memories of something, it’s always good to go back.”

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