BARCELONA, Spain -- After Kevin Magnussen was handed a reprimand for an incident in Friday practice, Haas boss Guenther Steiner said the Dane's rivals unfairly pick him out for criticism.
Magnussen had to visit the stewards after the end of FP1 after appearing to impede Sauber's Charles Leclerc, who angrily complained about it late in the session over his radio channel. The Danish driver avoided a more serious penalty after explaining to the stewards that he had slowed for a yellow flag and then not realised it had been cleared by the next part of the track, blocking the the approaching Leclerc in the process.
The stewards' decision then referred to a second block at Turn 1 which was deemed "potentially dangerous and unnecessary", which earned him the reprimand. The incident comes at an inconvenient time for Magnussen after the incident with Pierre Galsy at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix which led to the Frenchman calling him "the most dangerous" driver he had ever raced against -- the following week Magnussen felt compelled to clarify comments he had made during the same weekend.
Magnussen was coy on the incident in his media sessions on Friday evening, but Steiner defended his driver.
"I think at the moment he's [seen as] little bit of a bad boy," he said. "As soon as he does something he gets summoned there. He knows his way now so it's good."
Leclerc is competing in the fifth race of his Formula One career this weekend, but when complaining about the incident on the radio he complained it was "always" Magnussen who appeared to be block his rivals. Steiner thinks newer drivers need to be careful not to single out other drivers so quickly.
"I guess everybody feels they've got the right to pick on Kevin at the moment because of a few incidents which happened. Again, he went to the stewards, the stewards said don't make that move but he didn't get a penalty so I think that clarifies the situation and I don't think we have to elaborate more.
"There is a few new guys which think because they've had a few good results in the last races... for sure it was not perfect but these things happen in free practice. There was nothing spectacular. It seems like every time Kevin is involved in something there is a meal made out of it."
The incident, and the subsequent focus on it in post-practice media sessions, overshadowed a very encouraging day for the American team. Romain Grosjean and Magnussen finished FP2 as 'best of the rest' in seventh and eighth.Given the challenging nature of Haas' season so far, which has seen the American team squander several opportunities to score points, meaning it sits ninth in the championship despite having a legitimate claim it owns the fourth-quickest car on the grid, Steiner is refusing to get carried away.
"On Friday, it means something but it's too early to say we look good. I think the whole year our car looked pretty good. We had ups and downs but in general we had a car which is most solid in that position, four and six, consistent.
"We even looked good in races and then we didn't take any points home so that's why I am not saying 'great we made it'. It's only Friday, it's a nice position to be in on a Friday but we don't have to lose focus on what we need to achieve tomorrow and on Sunday."
F1's reprimands are a level below the penalty points handed out to each driver. If a driver earns three during a season he will automatically receive a ten-place grid penalty for the current or next event, but only if two of those reprimands are for driving infringements. By contrast, any driver who collects 12 penalty points over a rolling 12-month period is automatically handed a one-race ban.