F1 | São Paulo GP | “We didn't get lucky: we did a good job and then everything played to our favour,” says Steiner after sensational maiden pole
Quick decision making, a flawless lap and a little bit of luck being in the right place at the right time: Haas Team Principal Gunther Steiner takes us behind the scenes of Kevin Magnussen astonishing first pole position.
A Friday to remember for Haas in São Paulo, where Kevin Magnussen took the first ever Formula 1 pole position for the team. It was 2016 when the Americans made their debut in the pinnacle of motorsport and after a seven years and 143 Grand Prixes wait they will finally have the front row seat as lights will go out this Saturday for the last Sprint of the 2022 season.
A remarkable pole that is a team effort, with Magnussen getting out a perfect first flying lap and the crew making the right call rather quickly. The Dane was the first to go out in Q3 on a soft compound and closed a lap that was worthy of a provisional pole ahead of Max Verstappen, who was slowed down by a lock up. Quite a risk to take as rain was expected to come out soon.
"We knew rain was coming," Gunther Steiner told media including MotorLat at Interlagos after qualifying. "Do you take the risk to go out on dry, or is it better on intermediates?”
"That was the decision, but once the decision was taken to go on dries we knew that we need to get out first, because it starts to rain so the earlier you get to the point of the rain, the better it is. So we took that risk and went out there.”
“Also, you don't want to go out too early, because it could start to rain and then you're on the wrong tyre or the tyre cools down. So I think it all worked very well because everybody was thinking the same."
The rest of the grid, apart from Ferrari who decided to put Charles Leclerc on intermediates followed sharp on that decision and went out shortly after Magnussen all on dry compounds.
"Obviously we took the opportunity to be the first ones out there," continued Steiner. "But it's not that the other ones were an hour behind us running, they were a few seconds behind.”
"I think Kevin did a fantastic job, he put a lap down and he had no reference or nothing, he was on his own, the race track in front of him and you need to pull it off. I think he pulled this stuff off at the right moment."
The perfect moment indeed, as rain did start to fall down and as the track was starting to get wet no other single-seater was able to beat Haas’ time.
"I don't want to sound pretentious, but I could see that nobody could better the lap," said Steiner. "It started to rain, how you will better that time? It was quite obvious for me, it was more like what else can happen?”
"Maybe you could get a black and orange flag now or something, so the bone is taken away again. I went down and checked the front wing and kept the FIA away from it,” he joked.
“I didn't do that. But that is more what you think about: what could still go wrong.”
And nothing for the team did, as the session was red flagged when George Russell’s Mercedes went off at Turn 4 and after the restart Magnussen's first effort remained the fastest time.
"George went out, and it seemed like it took them forever to take the car out. He didn't want to get out of the car and things like this. But I was pretty calm about it, because I saw the radar and it was like for the next 30 minutes it's raining."
Not only a matter of good luck then, but certainly of making the right calls at the perfect time making the most of the tricky circumstances.
"If you look at the whole qualifying today, I think we did very little wrong," said Steiner. "It was very difficult circumstances for everybody and for the team, for us, to bring it always on the right tyre. And we think we did everything right."
"Obviously some people say we got lucky, but I think we didn't get lucky: we did a good job and then everything played to our favour, because we were at the right end of the pit lane and we used that position.”
Quick thinking that put Haas ahead of everyone else out there.
“We could have waited see what the other ones are doing, not to take a risk with the tyres,” he explained.
"But we knew what we were doing and then Kevin was out there first, as I said before, and he needed to put the lap down without having a reference or nothing. For him it was just like: GO."
A FIRST EVER pole position for @KevinMagnussen and #HaasF1 🥳— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) November 11, 2022
Here’s how he did it ⤵️#BrazilGP pic.twitter.com/ydmbv1TrrO
With AlphaTauri only 3 points behind in the constructor standings, the goal for the Sprint is scoring points, realistic hopes not dreams of a win.
"I hope we can stay in the points," he said. "Obviously we will not win the race, I mean I'm not dreaming, but you never know. But if you stay in the points that is the important thing for us now, we need to be focused to try to keep eighth position in the championship, because that's very important to us."