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Vettel still ‘open-minded’ for Malaysian GP despite qualifying setback

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Sebastian Vettel says he is “open-minded” heading into Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix and not thinking about the consequences starting last could have on his bid for the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.

Vettel had been leading the drivers’ standings until two races at in Italy, and slipped to 28 points behind Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton in Singapore when he retired from the race.

With six races to go, Vettel’s title hopes were dealt a fresh blow in Malaysia on Saturday when he suffered an engine issue in qualifying that prevented him from posting a lap time, leaving him last on the grid with Hamilton on pole.

Despite being disappointed by the setback, Vettel is keeping his options open heading into Sunday’s race as he prepares to battle his way back up the order.

“Tomorrow should be a bit more exciting. I think it’s a shame because the car is quick,” Vettel told NBCSN.

“I think today we could have got pole or had a word at least. You never know.

“For us it’s fairly straightforward. We saved some tires, which helps us. For sure the starting position doesn’t help, but you never know what can happen tomorrow.

“I’m fairly open-minded and focused on the race, not what that means for the year, for the points, whatever. As I said, step by step.”

The Malaysian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2am ET on Sunday.

F1 2017 driver review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Haas
Car No.: 20
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 19
Championship Position: 14th

Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.

For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.

Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.

Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.

Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.

That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.

The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.

Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.

Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.