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Kevin Magnussen

Why Hulkenberg’s Audi F1 move favours his closest rival

Nico Hulkenberg will make a switch from Haas to Stake next year ahead of Audi's arrival to the grid in 2026. It's a move that has likely saved one driver's F1 future.

Komatsu Magnussen
Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

The Formula 1 driver market is now in full swing with the latest piece of the puzzle fitting into place earlier this week.

Nico Hulkenberg confirmed he will be departing Haas after two seasons with the team to join Stake in 2025 ahead of its transition to an Audi works squad for 2026.

Hulkenberg’s career has been rejuvenated at Haas as he impressed during a difficult 2023 campaign for the American squad, scoring nine of its 12 championship points.

He also won out on the head-to-head battle over Kevin Magnussen in both qualifying and race trim, raising questions over Magnussen’s future in the sport beyond the 2024 expiry of his contract.

But with Hulkenberg out of the picture, the Dane's hopes to retain his seat has become a much simpler task.

Magnussen's experience

Magnussen still has something to offer the Haas - he is the most experienced driver in the team’s history and by the time the curtain falls on the current season, he is set to have 147 grand prix starts with Haas.

Only Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and David Coulthard (McLaren) will have more race starts with a single constructor in F1 history.

Experience for Haas is crucial right now during its period of recovery. Evident gains have been made at the start of the current season with Hulkenberg scoring three top 10 finishes in the opening five rounds.

Although Magnussen has not yet been able to break into the top 10, he played a valuable team gain in Saudi Arabia that allowed Hulkenberg to pit and reemerge inside the points.

It is easy for a team to get stuck in its old ways and it's a recent why at the end of the 2020 season, Haas decided to drop Magnussen and then team-mate Romain Grosjean for a fresh approach.

Magnussen found his way back to the team and although its position in the order has not dramatically shifted compared to his original departure, Magnussen can now play a key role in ensuring it makes the steps forward.

The team has aspirations to lift itself further than simply fighting for the last point on offer.

With a new team principal at the helm in Ayao Komatsu, the Japanese boss will work in unison with owner Gene Haas to decide on its 2025 line-up.

However, it may not have to think too hard.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The rookie factor

Make no mistake about it - Magnussen’s claim to a drive at Haas has been boosted by Hulkenberg’s decision to swap teams.

If rumours are to be believed, Oliver Bearman is the favourite for the vacancy left behind by Hulkenberg. The Briton impressed during his Ferrari debut in Saudi Arabia earlier this season and is due to partake in six FP1 outings with Haas later in the campaign.

Fielding two rookies is a path that Haas has walked before - during its detrimental 2022 campaign when it was lodged at the back of the pecking order, it employed Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin in what was its most challenging season to date.

Magnussen returned in 2022 when Haas ditched Mazepin following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and soon stamped his authority within the team by out-performing Schumacher, who was dropped at the end of the year.

Although Magnussen has been usurped thus far by Hulkenberg, the dynamic within the team will now shift with Hulkenberg's exit confirmed.

Outside of Bearman, other options do exist for Haas - including the experience of Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo who are both on expiring contracts.

But Magnussen has the advantage of Haas integration, a valuable asset to have in its arsenal should it also take on Bearman.

So whatever route Haas opts to take, Magnussen's argument as to why he should retain a drive will now be far easier to vocalise in the negotiation room.

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