Haas team principal Guenther Steiner believes that Kevin Magnussen has returned to Formula 1 a different man to the one that left at the end of 2020.
Magnussen had two spells in the pinnacle of motorsport between 2014 and 2020, and his career went on a tumultuous path.
He scored a podium on his debut for McLaren in Australia in 2014, and managed 11 points finishes thereafter for the British side.
Sadly for the Dane, Fernando Alonso signed from Ferrari for the 2015 season, pushing him back out of the main fold, so he spent that year on the side lines.
The 29-year-old returned with Renault for the 2016 season, but he suffered from a woefully underperforming car as he and Jolyon Palmer scored points on just three occasions between them.
He out-qualified the Briton 11 times in the year they had together, but he once again found himself changing teams after he fell out with Cyril Abiteboul, so he joined Haas in 2017.
Magnussen finished in the top 10 on 21 occasions in five years with the American outfit, but only once in 2020 as they finished ninth in the Constructors’ Championship having gradually slipped further off the pace throughout 2019.
As team-mate Romain Grosjean left to race in IndyCar, it was thought that Magnussen would be sticking around for the 2021 season, but the oligarch money brought in by Nikita Mazepin and his father Dmitry left him with nowhere to go, so he joined Chip Ganassi in IMSA last season.
By all accounts, it looked as though that was the end of the former McLaren driver’s Formula 1 career, but he made a sensational return when Mazepin was sacked amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Magnussen has bumped his tally up to 38 points finishes in the pinnacle of motorsport in the opening seven rounds of the year, and his 15 points mean that the Banbury-based side have scored more points in the last seven races alone than they had in the entirety of the last two seasons.
The shackles appear to be off for Magnussen at Haas, and he explained after his successful return in Bahrain that he no longer fears losing his place in F1, because that has already happened to him once.
“I feel like I’m able to enjoy it more,” he told the Beyond the Grid Podcast.
“I feel like it’s all just like a bonus, it’s all like just a gift somehow.
“Also I think maybe losing F1, having that slip away and having closed the chapter on F1 fully mentally makes it a little less scary now.
“I’ve lost it and I felt fine with it, and now I’m not scared of losing it. I hope I can have many years in Formula 1 from now but I’m not scared anymore.”
Steiner is notorious for being strict on his drivers, and he occasionally needed to put Magnussen in his place during their first spell working together, but the Austrian is working with a new and improved driver after his enriching year out of the sport.
“I don’t think he was immature before, but he has grown,” Steiner said.
“He’s 29, still young and when he came back to the team at the beginning of this season we found him much more confident.
“I think in his previous experience with us he lived with the fear of losing his place in Formula 1 but after actually coming out of that, that sort of fear is no longer there.”
Further, Steiner elaborates that it says something about the qualities of the “veteran,” as Lando Norris described him, that Haas came to him to sign him back, not the other way around.
“There’s another aspect I think is not secondary – he didn’t look for a steering wheel but we called him, I think that’s a rewarding step for a professional driver,” added the Italian.
“Obviously the very important result he got in the race of his return, in Bahrain also worked in his favour – he became a sort of hero and today he has his heart at peace, he is at ease with himself.
“I see a Kevin who communicates more, he is more confident in his interactions with the team, but as a driver he is the same as before.”
Magnussen’s points haul so far in 2022 leave him 10th in the Drivers’ Championship, while team-mate Mick Schumacher is yet to score points in F1 since his arrival last year.