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Kevin Magnussen: Important for Haas F1 to have evenly-matched drivers

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Kevin Magnussen believes it is important for Haas to have two evenly matched drivers to help push the team on and move up the grid in Formula 1.

Magnussen rejected a deal to stay at Renault in order to join Haas for its second season in F1, replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a point through 2016.

Magnussen links up with Romain Grosjean for 2017, the Frenchman having picked up all 29 of Haas’ points last year, including a fifth-place finish in Bahrain.

2017 will be Magnussen’s third full season in F1, having also raced for McLaren in 2014 before being dropped and ultimately leaving the team at the end of 2015 following a year in reserve.

Magnussen’s two teammates in F1 so far have been at varied wildly in terms of experience. At McLaren, Jenson Button was one of the most well-raced drivers in F1, while Renault teammate Jolyon Palmer was a rookie.

In Grosjean, Magnussen has a teammate with plenty of experience and pedigree for 2017, and is confident that he can learn plenty from him at Haas.

“I prefer to have an experienced teammate. It’s good for the team but it’s also good for me, to have someone that I can really learn from,” Magnussen said.

“I learned from Jolyon last year, but I’m sure from Romain I will learn more because he’s an extremely fast racing driver.

“Jolyon is fast as well, but Romain is very experienced.”

Magnussen is anticipating a good working relationship with Grosjean, and believes they will be evenly-matched enough to help Haas and spur each other on.

“I think it’s important to be competitive with each other. I don’t think it’s good for a team that one driver is just having all the points and doing all the work,” Magnussen said.

“It’s good to have two drivers that are quite close. That’s the best way to learn.

“If you have someone who is close to you, for sure he will do some things better than you. If it’s even, you’ll be doing different things good so you can learn from each other.

“That’s what you need in a team.”

Magnussen will make his first on-track appearance for Haas during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, starting on February 27.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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