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Magnussen seeking bigger things following shift to Haas

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Kevin Magnussen says he is grateful for the opportunities he has already experienced during his three-year Formula 1 career, but is chasing bigger and better things following his move to Haas for 2017.

Magnussen finished second on debut in Australia with McLaren back in 2014, but was ousted at the end of a tough season to make way for Fernando Alonso.

Magnussen spent a year in a reserve role at McLaren before being drafted in by Renault for 2016 as a late replacement for Pastor Maldonado.

Magnussen scored seven of Renault’s eight points in 2016 as the French manufacturer began to rebuild after taking over the cash-strapped Lotus operation and returning to F1 as a constructor.

Despite being offered a deal to stay at Renault for 2017, Magnussen opted to jump ship to Haas and replace Esteban Gutierrez, who was dropped by the American team at the end of its debut season.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Haas’ NASCAR shop in Kannapolis, North Carolina earlier this week, Magnussen spoke about the difference in approach he has already noticed compared to that of McLaren and Renault.

“This is a new team starting from scratch. It has a lot of potential,” Magnussen said.

“It can grow a lot and from the starting point. The starting point wasn’t so bad, scoring nearly 30 points in the first year.

“Renault and McLaren are very established teams. McLaren is probably the most established of them two, with massive budget and loads of people and resources.

“Renault, that was a new team, not completely new but the beginning of Renault again. They took over Lotus which was drained of resources. They didn’t have a lot of money and were struggling before Renault took over.

“All three very different experiences I am sure.”

Magnussen said he was grateful for the opportunities afforded to him by both McLaren and Renault in F1, but added that he intends to spend more than a single season with Haas.

“I feel very lucky to get the chance in F1. McLaren supported me very well in my time before Formula 1 and I learned a huge amount there,” Magnussen said.

“Since then I’ve been lucky to have some chances to race in Formula 1. I’ve been with three different teams in three seasons. My intention is to stick with this team a bit longer than one year.

“I’m in a great place right now and I have a really good opportunity to take myself to an even better place with Haas. I’m just really grateful for the opportunity I have right now.”

However, Magnussen does not feel he has anything extra to prove in F1 despite his early-career struggles with McLaren and Renault.

“I feel really good about my situation right now and the place that I’m in right now. Not many get the chance in Formula 1 at all.

“I’ve been with three different teams. I don’t feel so lucky about that, but I feel extremely fortunate to live my dream and go for my target which is to be a world champion in Formula 1 one day.

“I feel I can achieve that dream on the path that I am on now.”

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.