12 Questions with Kevin Magnussen (2022 Edition)

Every week, The Athletic asks the same 12 questions to another race car driver. Next: Kevin Magnussen of the Haas F1 team, who returned to Formula 1 this season after a one-year hiatus and is currently 10th on the points list.

1. What do you think of people reclining their seats on an airplane?

Do not do that. At least on short flights, no way. Hold it upright. That’s how I feel.

If someone still leans on you, do you feel obligated to have to do it yourself?

(Laughter) No, I leave mine upright. Especially if the guy behind you is eating at the table, it’s simply impossible to eat if the seat in front is leaning back.

2. How often are you recognized in the store?

Depends where I am, I guess. How often? Well, it happens.

Do people approach you or do they mostly stare?

Some must be staring. And some people come up and ask for a photo or just for a chat.

And are you good with that?

Yes, I’m fine. It’s all part, you know?

3. On a scale of one to 10, how good are you at replying to text messages on time?

One. (Nearby, reporter Stuart Morrison laughs and nods.)

Oh, you’re not good at texting?

No I did not. I’m really bad.

Do you see them and then you just say, “No, I’m not going to answer?” Or do you just not see them?

I get a lot. The thing is, around Formula 1 races I get so many text messages from people watching. And then I fall behind and feel I have to answer people. And then I just give up. (laughter)

4. What is the best way to get out of talking to someone who won’t stop talking?

I don’t know, but I feel like the kids figured it all out. They just turn around and leave. (laughter)

Ever since you were a parent, have you noticed this observation?

Yeah right. I try to learn from it and I try to practice doing the same.

5. If you could choose just one form of social media to use and throw out all the others, which would it be?

I use Instagram a little. I don’t have an app. That’s why I log in to my profile on the browser because I feel that it makes it a little harder for me to spend time on Instagram. It’s so easy to be drawn into it. You take out your phone, go to Instagram and the hour passes in five minutes. So I don’t have the app on purpose to prevent myself from spending a lot of time on it. And also, it’s definitely different to have Instagram when you have a lot of followers than when it’s mostly just friends and family.

6. What advice would you give to someone who has a hard time overcoming the mistake he made?

It’s hard to give good advice, because the best I can say is just get over it. Move on. And in F1, everything you do is analyzed as if you were wrong. I’m sure that even when Mercedes or Red Bull win races – or Ferraris – they go through every little detail of their race looking for mistakes. So what I’m saying is that mistakes are normal and it’s part of progress. So don’t feel sad about it; just learn from it.

7. The next question is ‘wild card’, where I shuffle it for each person. In 2017, we did this interview at COTA and I asked you: Do you consider race car drivers entertainers? And you said no. But since then there’s been “Drive to Survive” and all the clips on social media that you’re on at press conferences trying to get you to say something funny and they posted it. So do you still feel like drivers aren’t entertainers? How do you look at it all?

Well we entertain people. A lot of people watch us and have fun while we ride. So in that sense, I guess we are entertainers. But I don’t see myself (such). I’m not getting on the right track trying to be fun. It’s just a consequence of what we do. My focus is on trying to make a good score, to be fast. And it’s fun for a lot of people – which is good. That is what runs the sport.

8. If you felt like you were obviously kicked out of the race, as if someone had deliberately run into you, how do you deal with that? I know there would be a penalty in F1, but are you going to face them? How do you deal with that?

It is unlikely that this specific situation will ever happen. Someone is just taking you to Formula 1, it’s not happening. These cars (have) the slightest contact and explode. They are so fragile. It’s not like in sports cars or in NASCAR, where you see them running towards each other and they can still finish the race on their own. It’s different here. So when they touch or hit you, it’s usually because the guy made a mistake. I’m not in conflict with anyone.

9. Which movie do you think you have watched the most times in the last year?

I don’t know if I’ve watched the movie in the last year.

Not a movie type?

I did, but I had a child (daughter Laura, born last January). I’ve watched some on the plane and can’t remember which one it is. I was probably asleep.

How do you spend time in front of the screen with the kids? Will you let them see Cocomelon and the rest or try to keep them away from it?

She’s a year and a half old, so it’s not a problem yet. But I’m sure when he grows up and realizes what the iPad is, he’ll want to spend time on it. But I think it’s best not to spend too much time on these devices.

10. When you think about F1 in five years, what are you most optimistic about and what worries you the most?

I am optimistic because I see the momentum that Formula 1 has in public and has a lot of attention, especially in the US. We are now at the Miami Grand Prix and you can see how this race is rising and the attention to gain.

I am much more optimistic than I am nervous. I don’t know why I would at least be nervous about this sport. It is going in a very good direction.

11. The magic spirit appears and offers you the opportunity to go back to the beginning of your racing career and start over. But you can keep all the knowledge you have now and all the lessons you have learned. So do you want to go back and start over or just stay where you are?

Since I have been very lucky many times, I would not dare to return. I would be too scared not to get lucky in the same way I had. So I think I would stay the way he is.

12. Every week I ask the driver to ask me a question for the next person. And the last one was Kyle Larson from NASCAR, and he was fascinated by this video that was where you test one of Tony Stewart’s sprint cars. He watched this on board and heard you were really good and fast. So he wanted to know what you think of a sprint car. What was the power-to-weight ratio compared to F1? And would you ever think a race is a dirty race?

It was probably one of the most fascinating and exciting experiences I have ever had in racing. It was so crazy and so different. It was as if I was in a completely different territory. And I really liked it, you know? It was a shock how fast this little thing was and how much it caught the dirt.

In my mind, every time I went to earth in my career, it was because I made a mistake and there is no clinging. But then there was a lot of grip with this car, it had a lot of thrust. When you slide through a bend, there is so much pressure and grip and you just have to keep the throttle inside. Completely different. I had Tony show me the ropes and give me advice. And it was great. You know, I’d love to do it again.

The next interview I’m doing is with Jimmie Johnson of IndyCar. Do you have a question I could ask him?

I would like to know if he is on an oval now, if it is more familiar to him. Is there much more from your experience so far that you can apply or use on ovals with IndyCar?

I know it’s a completely different world for him, IndyCars racing on road tracks. It has to be like starting from scratch, like learning to walk again. He was a legend at NASCAR, but I have great respect for what he did to step into such unfamiliar territory. He had the courage to try to get there on that level at IndyCar and tackle the challenges. Great respect for that. So, yes, that would be my question: As for the oval, is there any past experience of it that is similar or useful?

(Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

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