First Impressions: Kevin Magnussen and the mysterious tattoo

It’s not every day someone invites JeffGluck.com to participate in a group interview with a Formula One driver (FACT CHECK: This has never happened before), so I decided to take advantage of Haas F1 Team’s generous offer on Thursday.

Kevin Magnussen, a 24-year-old from Denmark, is the team’s new addition. He replaced Esteban Gutierrez and joins Romain Grosjean as the drivers for America’s (F1) Team this season.

I’d never met Magnussen before and didn’t know much about him, aside from that his dad (Jan) made a Cup start for James Finch at Sonoma in 2010 (FACT CHECK: I actually didn’t remember that without looking it up).

Anyway, my professional colleagues asked Magnussen a bunch of racing questions, and it seemed like he gave sort of the standard answers. Excited about the opportunity and all that.

Magnussen smiled a lot when he spoke and generally seemed to be very pleasant, but was a bit guarded. I tried asking a couple personality-based questions to see what he was all about, but they didn’t get me very far.

For example: What’s the best and worst part about being an F1 driver aside from the actual driving?

“The best part is obviously in the car and the race weekend,” he said. “Everything in between is just preparation. When you go racing, that’s the best feeling. … Sometimes traveling can be tough, but that’s a small price to pay.”

Why is Denmark the happiest country in the world?

“Maybe because our wives are so pretty,” he said.

But one thing I couldn’t get past was the giant tattoo on Magnussen’s right forearm. This dude was INKED by race car driver standards, with a tat featuring a large stopwatch, roses, dice and playing cards.

Fortunately, NBC’s Nate Ryan broached the subject: What’s the story behind the tattoo?

“There’s no story,” Magnussen said.

“Viva la Vida?” Ryan prodded, reading the wording on one part of it.

“Yeah,” Magnussen said.

Everyone chuckled. I chimed in and noted I saw dice and playing cards as part of it.

“Good,” he said with a half-smile.

Motorsport.com’s Lee Spencer tried to help, too. Are you a gambler, she asked?

“I guess racing is a little bit of a gamble,” he said. “You could do more safe things.”

“So the cards (on the tattoo) –”

“– have nothing to do with it.”

More laughter.

It was clear he didn’t really want to talk about it, which is fine, but of course it piqued my interest. So I Googled “Kevin Magnussen tattoo” after the interview, and it turns out he shared a pretty simple explanation with Formula1.com last year:

Everything together has a meaning: hope, belief and love! For us Danish it is a way to live – probably like Sisu for the Finnish. I changed that a bit to my situation: the dice are hope, the stopwatch of course is time, or belief that I will make it, and the roses symbolise love.

So maybe the tattoo isn’t much of a mystery after all. It was likely more a case of interview weariness after a long day of answering questions.

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