Kevin Magnussen was understandably cheerful after securing a spectacular first pole position for himself and the underdog Haas team in a dramatic qualifying session hampered by rain at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Friday, the Danish driver was nearly at a loss for words.
The popular and unassuming 30-year-old Dane stated, “I don’t know what to say,” as hysterical celebrations broke out all around him at Interlagos. “The group got me back on track at at the right time. We entered the pit lane first, I put in a good lap, and now we are in pole position. It’s amazing!”
On the eve of team owner Gene Haas’ 70th birthday, it was certainly a gift for the American dreamer to remember. As for team principal Guenther Steiner, he was overjoyed after the session given Magnussen’s performance. Perhaps this is why he said Mick Schumacher was ‘unlucky’ to be the slowest on the track, despite the fact that in the past he has rarely shied away from criticising the German for poor performances.
Magnussen took full advantage of the shifting dry-wet conditions to go out first and record a best lap in one minute and 11.674 seconds. Magnussen re-joined the American-owned team this season after being dropped in 2021.
As rain rushed across the circuit, hindering his competitors’ attempts to respond, George Russell lost control of his Mercedes and went off into a gravel trap, bringing a red flag stoppage. His early run in Q3 gave him the advantage.
Magnussen won the race with a timing of 1:11.877, two tenths faster than Max Verstappen, a newly crowned two-time world champion. Verstappen was forced to settle for second place ahead of Russell, who had recorded 1:12.059 before crashing.
His achievement made him the fourth different driver this season to win his first pole position, following Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, Sergio Perez of Red Bull, and George Russell of Mercedes, all of whom were among the first to congratulate him.
It was not surprising to hear Magnussen’s disbelief in his voice when his team informed him of his likely feat in the final minutes of Q3.
“Kevin, you’re P1″
“No, I’m not, you’re kidding.”
“No, you’re P1”
“No. You’re kidding me. You’re ******* me!”
“No, I’m not… You’re P1.”
“I’ve never, never felt like this in my life… Don’t celebrate yet though guys. Not yet!”
Once out of his car, back in the Haas team garage, he was struggling with reality, but quick-witted enough to know what to say when asked if he had a plan for the start of Saturday’s sprint race.
“Maximum attack… Let’s go for something funny!”