Kevin Magnussen says he forgot to enjoy leading the sprint at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix but picking up a point in eighth place matched the Haas plan for where he was likely to finish.
A stunning qualifying performance on Friday saw Magnussen secure the first pole position of his career, and he duly got a strong start to pull clear of Max Verstappen off the line and lead the opening three laps. Starting lap four Magnussen lost the lead and put up little in the way of defense as he slipped back to eighth place as he tried to maximize his result.
“I think it went almost as well as we could have hoped for,” Magnussen said. “The pace wasn’t quite good enough to keep (Lando) Norris behind. He was a bit too fast for me to keep behind. I still had good pace, led a couple of laps, after starting from pole position for the first time, which was great.
“I forgot to really enjoy it. I was looking after my tires and trying to get into the rhythm, so I didn’t even think about it. But my target was to finish P7, P8, around there, so I was just looking after my tires. I knew those guys behind me would overtake me, so I was just trying to lose as little time as possible, in order to try and finish as high up as possible.
“We weren’t fooling ourselves,” he explained. “We knew that in dry conditions we weren’t going to be able to hang on. Maybe if we had the same conditions we had yesterday — maybe — as it looked like we had the fastest car, but it wasn’t. It was dry, so I knew we had a battle to fight further down the field, around P7 or P8.”
Magnussen admits it was an unusual feeling being the lead car on the grid yet not targeting victory, but he had words of praise for how Haas approached the situation.
“It was great. I really enjoyed it. It was nice. Of course it was very different to the past, in Formula Renault, when I knew I had to win those races, and I knew I could win the races, whereas here I didn’t really expect that. I wasn’t really thinking… It’s a funny thing — we knew we weren’t fighting for the win, although we were on pole position, which was kind of strange. But that’s Formula 1.
“I felt (the team) were very focused — put all this joy of yesterday behind for a while — and then focus on what we had to do. Now we can think back on the joy of qualifying and the pole position and every once in a while we can bring it back to our minds and think about it a little bit. But, when there’s a job to do like today, in the Sprint race, we could focus and score the point.”
Despite slipping back towards Sebastian Vettel late in the sprint, Magnussen is hopeful he will show better race pace on Sunday because he will no longer have so many cars overtaking him.
“I think it looked like Seb was faster than us but every time you get passed by a car, your tires take a lot more damage,” he said. “I got passed a fair bit, and it was a short race so I hope the tires are going to be in a better condition for the race tomorrow. Hopefully, because I’m starting P8, so, hopefully, just get in the groove and finish around there.”
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