Mark Slade made a surprise return to the F1 paddock in 2022. The veteran race engineer joined Haas and started working with Kevin Magnussen from the Singapore Grand Prix onwards.
Speaking to MotorLAT ahead of the São Paulo Grand Prix weekend – a day before his driver Kevin Magnussen secured a famous pole position – Slade explained he had made no plans to make a comeback after he departed his position as Esteban Ocon's race engineer at Renault at the end of 2020.
"No, it wasn't [planned] actually. I thought I was retired, and I was quite happy with that, to be honest," said Slade.
Slade described how the big rules overhaul and the massive changes to the cars for 2022 lit a fire inside of him with regards to a comeback.
From there, he spoke with the team’s chief race engineer Ayao Komatsu, and things quickly progressed from there.
"The new cars with the new aero peaked my interest," he stated.
"I worked with Ayao [Komatsu at Lotus] in 2012 and 2013. I think he's a really good bloke.
"I saw there was an opportunity available. I kind of assumed the job had already been taken, but it turned out it hadn't. When I contacted Ayao, we quite quickly came to an agreement."
Slade has previously worked for McLaren, Renault and Mercedes. He admits that the opportunity to work for a smaller team was something that appealed to him as well.
"In actual fact, being a smaller team, I thought it would actually be a lot more interesting and enjoyable to work here than one of the bigger teams – not to say that any of the big teams would necessarily have taken me on.
"I've been really enjoying it so far – it's been very good."
His return to Formula One saw him work with a familiar face as he reacquainted with Kevin Magnussen. The Brit was a team engineer at Renault in 2016 when the Dane joined the team from McLaren.
Slade says it has definitely helped to be working with a person he knew from the past.
"It certainly helps just to know people. On a one-to-one you are slightly less cautious," he said.
“When you are introduced to them, you kind of know each other a bit better. It definitely helped.”
Magnussen scored two valuable points at the United States Grand Prix back in October, securing P8 for Haas in the Constructors’ Championship this year.
As a previous race-winning engineer with Mika Häkkinen, Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen, MotorLAT asked the Brit did the Dane’s P9 feel as a good as a win.
"I'd say it's not quite as good as winning a race, that's pretty good," said Slade.
"But it certainly is very good. I'd say it's probably like a podium, that's for sure. It was fantastic. It was really, really enjoyable to get that result.
"And Kevin [Magnussen] made a very good call [on the strategy]. He really knew what he was doing. It was a great drive by Kev."
One can only imagine the feeling Kevin Magnussen’s pole position gave him the day following our interview.