Kevin Magnussen has explained that his neck isn't costing him lap time when he's on track, although admitted he's had constant pain ever since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Danish driver was parachuted into the second Haas cockpit ahead of the second pre-season test just over a month ago, having dropped everything to rejoin his former team after they removed Nikita Mazepin.
While Magnussen has come back to F1 with storming drives in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, his lack of F1-specific fitness training has resulted in him experiencing a sore neck. This was particularly noticeable in Jeddah, due to the high G-forces the drivers experience at the high-speed circuit.
Speaking after qualifying, the Haas driver had 'joked' about his neck "breaking" during qualifying, meaning he raced on Sunday with plenty of bandaging and supportive fabric in place to help him drive through the pain.
How Magnussen's neck pain is impacting his performance
Despite the pain, Magnussen doesn't feel his neck weakness has been costing him any time on track.
"My neck is OK now, but it's been sore ever since, because I've
trained it so much, but I don't think it was holding me back in the
race," Magnussen told media, including RacingNews365.com, ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
"I couldn't hold my head [up], so I was leaning on the headrest, basically from the beginning of the race. But I kind of got used to driving like that in the race and I don't think it was costing me lap time."
But, referring to the pain he felt in Saturday qualifying, Magnussen admitted that his neck had compromised his ability to actually take part.
"In qualifying, in Q3, I couldn't drive on that last run, so I got compromised there," he explained.
"It will just take a few races, and then strength will build back. It's tough at the moment, but we're having fun."
Magnussen training hard to rebuild neck strength
Having been on the F1 sidelines in 2021, during which time he raced sportscars and in IndyCar, Magnussen admitted that he hadn't kept up his F1 level of training as he believed that part of his career had come to an end.
"Honestly, I haven't really done much training in the last year and a half – it's been pretty limited," he commented.
"I kept active, but I didn't think I needed to be that fit. So it's a bit of a surprise now, but [I'm] just training as much as I can.
"There's no point training five hours a day, because you're just running yourself out of energy, and you need to recover as well to build fitness, but I'm really trying to optimise my time to find the right balance between training and recovery.
"I'm glad I've got probably some of the best people in the world looking after me in Denmark, so I'm in good hands, but it's going to be a little bit of a tough journey to get back to full F1 fitness.
"I'm enjoying it. It's nice to be back in the good old routines –tough, but fun."
F1 Podcast: Can anyone stop the Verstappen/Leclerc show?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken,
Mike Seymour, and Thomas Maher look back over the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah, which was won in dramatic fashion by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.