Formula 1

RB Critical of Magnussen’s ‘Unsportsmanlike Behaviour’ during Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

4 Mins read
Credit: Andy Hone / LAT Images

One of the bigger stories to come out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was the defensive driving by Kevin Magnussen that delayed drivers enough to allow his MoneyGram Haas F1 Team team-mate Nico Hülkenberg to score his first point of the season.

Magnussen slowed his pace in the first sector and was setting lap times upward of a second and a half down on what he was capable of to allow Hülkenberg to scamper away, with Yuki Tsunoda, Alexander Albon, Esteban Ocon and Logan Sargeant all having their evenings compromised as a result.

The Danish driver was already carrying two ten-second time penalties thanks to incidents involving both Albon and Tsunoda, and it was a call from the pit wall to back up the pack that proved key to who took home the final point on offer.

Not everyone was happy with what unfolded, with Visa CashApp RB’s racing director Alan Permane criticising the move that saw Magnussen pass Tsunoda, with the Dane running off track to complete the pass. Permane called the decision to not allow Tsunoda back ahead despite this as ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’.

“We started him [Tsunoda] on the medium tyre, and when the safety car came out, pitted him for the hard compound,” Permane is quoted as saying by “What then happened was a little difficult to take.

“Magnussen drove off the track to deliberately put himself in front of Yuki and then slowed him down by up to two seconds a lap, which allowed Hülkenberg, who hadn’t stopped yet, to create a gap and of course pit in front of all the cars behind.

“That, to me, doesn’t seem correct, and is the very definition of unsportsmanlike behaviour. I’m sure we and other teams will talk to the FIA about it for future races.”

Laurent Mekies, the new Team Principal at RB, was also left frustrated by the outcome of the race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, with Magnussen denying the team the opportunity to score their first points of the 2024 season.

“Yuki was fighting for what could have been a P10 finish,” said Mekies. “He was then passed by Magnussen, who cut the track to do so and then slowed down the whole pack to let his team-mate open a gap to pit in front of all of us.

“It made the penalty imposed on Magnussen meaningless, as it destroyed Yuki’s race.”

Kevin Magnussen held off a whole host of cars in Saudi Arabia – Credit: Andy Hone / LAT Images

“We should have given the place back” – Ayao Komatsu

Haas have admitted that they perhaps should have allowed Tsunoda to repass Magnussen once it was clear the Dane had gained an advantage by passing him with all four wheels over the white line on lap seventeen.

Team Principal Ayao Komatsu praised the way Magnussen defended and withstood immense pressure to allow team-mate Hülkenberg enough time to create a big enough gap to pit and retain position, but ultimately, allowing RB’s Tsunoda back ahead after the initial move would probably have been the best idea.

“I believe at that point in the race, if I remember the projection very well, we are fighting with Tsunoda for P10,” Komatsu is quoted as saying by “Of course, we should have given the place back, we should have tried to overtake him.

“I believe with our pace we could have done that.  So, I think the end result we are still looking for P10. Whether we could have achieved it is another story.

“We told him [to do laps] around 1m36 and he was doing 36.2, 36.2, 36.2… That’s the widest Haas F1 car you’ve seen for a long time.”

Magnussen acknowledged that the move on Tsunoda was completed off track, but with every point so important, particularly at the back of the pack, playing the team game and holding back the pace to allow Hülkenberg to score was important.

“I overtook Tsunoda and went outside to track, so rules are rules,” Magnussen said.  “I’m not happy with myself to get those two penalties, but at least I was able to help the team to create a gap for Nico to pit and get a point.

“It’s a tight battle between the five teams at the back. From P6 down to 10th it’s a real championship, so every point matters.”

Albon Fears Similar Moves in the Future, Wants Rule Change

Albon, who was involved in the incident that earned Magnussen his first ten-second time penalty in Saudi Arabia, believes other drivers could follow in the Dane’s footsteps by passing another car and hindering them.

The Williams Racing driver had no issues with the contact with Magnussen not long after the race resumed after a safety car intervention, but he was more concerned with the penalty for the Tsunoda incident that he felt was soft based on the consequences for the drivers being delayed.

I think that was fair,” Albon said to about Magnussen’s penalty for contact with him.  “It happens, a bit of a squeeze. I don’t like how that corner is shaped. It sticks out to you. And I think it’s very misleading.

“You’ve got to leave more space than you realise, because of how it sticks out at the end there. They could just shave it flat, I think that would be easier. No hard feelings.

“The other one was a bit cheeky, the other 10-second one with Yuki. I mean, you basically guarantee your teammate points for a 10-second penalty. Why wouldn’t you do that everywhere? I don’t think five to 10 seconds is correct. I think it needs to be you must return the position back, and just leave it like that.

“I think any team would do the same thing if you sacrifice one driver for guaranteed points.  Maybe the top teams won’t do it. But the midfield teams who need to take points at any opportunity, you would do it every single time.

“I think you might see more drivers doing it just to guarantee a team-mate to have points.”

Tsunoda, the driver who should have had the most to complain about after the race in Jeddah, admitted it was frustrating to see Magnussen pass him off track, but he took a little blame to allow him to pass in the first place.

“It was pretty frustrating, probably my mistake was I let Kevin by,” Tsunoda said to “But at the same time he overtook me four wheels outside.

“Okay, he got a 20-second penalty, but he was cruising around. So that felt a bit unfair, but at the same time truth is I also let him go. So that was my mistake.

“I think if I could have done a 100% job, I think I could save it and try to overtake the car in front.”

Both Yuki Tsunoda and Alexander Albon had their opinions on what went down in Saudi Arabia – Credit: Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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