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Formula 1 Monaco GP

Exclusive: What it's like racing under an F1 race ban

Kevin Magnussen is in a tough spot in Formula 1’s history: facing the longest-ever threat of a race ban.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team, arrive in Parc Ferme

Under F1’s penalty points system – introduced in 2014 – some of his rivals have approached the threshold of 12 points and automatic suspension for one event. Daniil Kvyat in 2017, Lewis Hamilton in 2020, and Pierre Gasly last year. But their time close the limit lasted just a few months in each case.

Rewind 27 years and Jacques Villeneuve faced having to go nine races with a suspended race ban sentence from the 1997 Italian Grand Prix – where he’d driven too quickly under yellow flags in pre-race warm-up.

Effectively this was a nine-month sanction given the differing length of the calendar back then, but Williams’ decision to withdraw its appeal over his penalty at the Japanese GP three races on meant forfeiting that result and the risk being removed.

Magnussen has an 11-month wait – assuming he starts the 2025 season with his Haas contract up for renewal this year.

That’s 17 total races in 2024 where even an innocuous incident such as Logan Sargeant at the Chinese GP – accidentally overtaking under the safety car at the pit exit – could trigger the ban.

Having now gone into battle with the threat hanging over him for the first time last weekend at Imola, how did Magnussen find it?

“I didn’t think about it,” he replies in an exclusive interview with Autosport. “I have to still keep pushing otherwise I spend the next 20 races cruising around. I’m not gonna do that. It doesn’t make sense either.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Magnussen is referring to how he’s already laid out his case, again, in questioning how he has ended up in this position. We’re speaking in the Haas motorhome after Monaco has been given a soaking on Thursday afternoon. The Dane, as ever, is immaculate. And here he’s articulate too.

“If you compare with the way that I was racing Lewis in Miami – that was as hard as I can race anyone,” he says when asked if the sense he’d held back more racing rivals at Imola was the reality in his Haas cockpit, having in part arrived at this point for his decision to race excessively defensively in the Miami sprint against Hamilton to try and protect team-mate Nico Hulkenberg’s position there.

Magnussen acknowledges Haas didn’t ask him to do that in Miami, but it had in a similar situation in Jeddah at the start of the campaign. It has been suggested this led to tensions within the American squad.

“[But] I think you understand the reasons and the dynamics in that,” he adds. “And then Imola it was looking possible for me to go and catch those guys and get points, so I didn’t need to go crazy there.

“It’s not like my default. I try and try and weigh it out and the pros and cons and do it when it makes sense and I don’t when it doesn’t make sense. I try at least.”

In 15 minutes in Monaco, Magnussen appears both repentant and defiant at his lengthy dilemma.

The saga that began with his driving against Tsunoda and Alex Albon at that Jeddah round – of the Albon clash that earned him three points for causing a collision he says, “nothing happened” – and dramatically increased in risk with clashes with Hamilton and Sargeant in Miami at the start of this month.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“There’s been a couple of situations this year where even though I wasn’t in the points, it was still worth fighting for it because as a team we were still in the game for points and my position on track had an effect on how we were going to score points in those races,” he explains.

“So, it’s hard to say that I regret anything that I did… I don’t love playing this game, but also at the same time, I do always try and stay within the rules. Even though I’ve been trying to fight really hard with some guys and I’ve gone over the limit and I’ve got a penalty. Then I accept the penalty.

“There’s been a question of whether the rules are correct for this, which I can definitely sympathise with that and I’ve given my ideas of how they can be better. I do see there is an issue with the rules, but I didn’t make the rules. Don’t hate the player, you know? It’s just the way it is.”

Just as he did in Imola, Magnussen suggested F1 officials should instead take a “let them race” approach he encountered with his 2021-2022 IndyCar and sportscar outings in the USA. He also questions the wisdom of the 2024 update to F1’s racing guidelines.

These have been made far more extensive and complex this season. In the particular case of drivers attempting overtakes on the outside – as Magnussen was against Sargeant in the Miami GP – the consideration that the attacking driver must be able to stay within track limits at all times naturally requires the defender to be especially cooperative.

On this, Magnussen feels therefore “they’ve put this stuff in the rules that means if you allow the driver on the outside to just turn into you if the steps before, leading into that, are in a certain way, then he can just turn in (smacks hands together) and you’ll get a penalty – the guy on the inside”.

“Where is the common sense? Where is the instinct? Why do we need all these rules?” he adds. “Just let us race and let us use our instincts – we all wanna finish the race, we all wanna be sensible.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team

Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

But, having arrived at this point in such controversy, in one way Magnussen is also feeling better off for it. This, he hopes, could mean he rides out his historic F1 risk without missing a race.

“In some of the conversations with the FIA, I also understand them better,” he concludes. “I still don’t like the way the rules are. But this is also something [where] they’re trying to do their best.

“I think in this process I’ve also learned something. So, I do think with some of it, they’ve taken a different stance, they’ve explained a few things, which means I could probably avoid this better than I could before.

“But I could still end up in a situation where if I do something by accident then [I’ll get the ban].”

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