Kevin Magnussen fastest during extended F1 testing in his Haas return at Bahrain

Kevin Magnussen Haas testing
Hasan Bratic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

SAKHIR, Bahrain — More than a year since being dropped from Formula One, Kevin Magnussen topped preseason testing in Bahrain on Friday in his first drive back in the seat for Haas, making the most of an extended session just for the American-owned team.

Magnussen, whom Haas surprisingly recalled a year after firing him when it needed a last-minute replacement for Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, benefited from an extra hour of testing when he had the cooler Sakhir desert track all to himself to set a leading time of 1 minute, 33.207 seconds.

Haas, the worst outfit in F1 last season, was granted four hours of extra testing – one tacked on to Friday’s session and three extra hours scheduled for Saturday – to make up for time the team lost on Wednesday due to the late arrival of freight shipments that left the team without enough time to assemble its car.

“It was so good to be back in a Formula 1 car and so good to be back with the team … I spent the first couple of runs getting back up to speed with a Formula One car, but other than that it felt like I hadn’t been away,” Magnussen said. “I could feel my neck at the end of it though – it kind of `broke’ – but that’s expected. I’ll do another day tomorrow, break it even more, and then hopefully get in a little better shape for next week.”

Magnussen’s best effort bettered the flying lap of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who had finished the group session with the leading time.

Defending champion Max Verstappen ended up with the third-fastest lap, and fierce rival Lewis Hamilton was fifth, just behind Aston Villa’s Lance Stroll.

Daniel Ricciardo missed the day’s testing, and McLaren later confirmed the Australian had tested positive for COVID-19. He will miss Saturday, which is the final day of testing, but the team hopes to have him back when the season begins in Bahrain on March 20.

Hamilton’s new-look Mercedes was for a second day all the rage of the paddock because it sports much narrower sidepods compared to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago.

But Hamilton was more concerned about the track conditions that he and the other drivers will face in the season opener. Hamilton said that conditions were difficult with sand blowing in on hot winds. Temperatures hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) on the Bahrain International Circuit before cooling at sunset.

“The car is definitely different to last week, but (the trouble) is more so the tires working with the temperature are different here,” Hamilton said. “It is bumpy, slippery. There is sand. This morning it was way too hot, and in the afternoon it is just gusty. It is difficult out there… (I’m) not quite happy at the moment.”

Amid a wave of global sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Haas dropped Mazepin from its drivers’ lineup because his father is a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Magnussen, who had driven Haas from 2017 through 2020 before being let go, got behind the wheel after Mick Schumacher drove the morning session.

Nicholas Latifi had a scare when his brakes burst into flames after just 12 laps, sending his Williams spinning to a stop. The Canadian driver grabbed a fire extinguisher and helped stewards put out the fire that engulfed the rear of his car.

“I had to get my firefighter skills out there,” Lafiti said, adding that he put out a fire in his car years ago when driving in Formula Three.

Esteban Ocon had the fastest lap time in the morning session, which was later bettered by other drivers. Things did not go as well after lunch for the Alpine driver when his car came to a stop on the track, bringing out a red flag.

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
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Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor “It is great for to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”