Kevin Magnussen. Photo Courtesy HAAS F1 Team.

Fresh off the back of a surprise digital unveiling of its VF-20 challenger last week, Haas F1 Team is readying itself to journey to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the opening week of pre-season testing, Feb. 19 to Feb 21, prior to the start of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Magnussen talks to us about the upcoming 2020 season.

Can you share the emotions and feelings you experienced as you prepared for your very first pre-season test back in 2014? If you could give one piece of advice to that version of Kevin Magnussen, knowing what you know now, what might it be?

I can still clearly remember my first pre-season test back in 2014. I was so excited to get in the car and get on-track with the rest of the grid. I enjoyed it a lot. My advice would have been just that, go out and enjoy it, take your time, and don’t worry about the pressure.

As you head into your sixth full-time season as a Formula One driver what’s more exciting each year, the prospect of testing a new car and exploring its limits, or the first race start of the season?

I guess it depends on how the pre-season test has gone. If the test shows you’ve got a bad car, then the expectation for the first race is a little bit different. Similarly, if you know you’ve got a good car, then you’re very excited for the first race. I’m very excited for the test this year. I’m confident we’ll have a good car.

Is there a need to drive a brand-new car differently when starting out a test program or do you get straight into it the same way you’d approach a free practice session for example?

When you get into the car in pre-season testing you’ve been out of the cockpit for a few months. You spend the first few laps getting back into it again and getting up to speed. After that there’s a whole lot of test program to work on before you actually get to push the limits fully in the car. There’s no point going all-out in the car immediately. You have to stay on-track and try to be consistent to get good data and feedback for the team.

The team is just one-season removed from a top-five finish in the Constructors’ Championship. Mindful of the highs of 2018, and the lows of a troublesome 2019 season, what can testing offer you from a driver perspective to indicate where the new season might head? Are there markers you personally look for in and out of the car throughout testing that offer you a good feel for the car’s performance?

I think, generally, you try to approach testing the same way independent of your own expectations and fears or worries. You try to go about it in a professional way, and you try to help the team as well as you can. You have to do what it takes to get yourself up to speed. Then you’re just hopeful, and maybe anxious, about getting a good car. You just have to make sure you help the team the best way you can to correct any faults or weaknesses there might be with the car. In the last two pre-season tests, the team has provided a car that’s felt very good and very competitive.

In 2018 that then proved to be very competitive throughout the season, leading to our top-five placing. We didn’t achieve that in 2019, but at least in pre-season testing the car felt very quick, and we showed over the season that it was very quick at times. It just had some weaknesses that proved to be a big problem in the races. I’m confident that the team is going to provide another good car this year. Hopefully we’ve learned from the mistakes of last year so we can have a good season. I’m very confident on that.

At what point does your off-season switch from being rest and recovery from the season completed, to focusing fully on preparations for the new season? What’s been the focus of your preparation gearing up for 2020 and how, if relevant, has that been different from other pre-season build ups?

You take a few weeks completely off, at least I do in December immediately after the last race. You just disconnect completely from Formula One, you forget about it for a while. I go back to friends and family, I enjoy being human for a while. For me, by the end of December, I started my preparation fully. It’s been very good this year, but I think it’s natural you try and improve year-on-year. You look back and see where you could have done better, and there’s always something you could have done better. You can always work a little bit harder or started a little bit earlier. Based on that, you naturally do better every year. I feel like I’m heading into this season the best prepared I’ve ever been.

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American Formula One team since 1986. Founded by industrialist Gene Haas, Haas F1 Team is based in the United States on the same Kannapolis, North Carolina, campus as his championship-winning NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing.