12 Questions with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean

The 12 Questions interviews continue this week with the first Formula One drivers to be featured in the series: Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

KM: It requires both. Getting to Formula One is a lot about the natural ability, showing that in the Junior Formulas and the categories you race before Formula One. You’ve gotta work really hard, that’s all.

RG: I guess we’re only 20 (F1 drivers) in the world, and my grandfather was vice world champion (silver medalist) of skiing, and he said it’s 80 percent work, 10 percent talent and 10 percent of chance. I think he was kind of right, because work is the main one. Of course, if you don’t have the talent, there’s no chance you’re gonna make it to the 20 top Formula One drivers in the world. So you need everything right, but work is what takes the most of us.

2. What pitch would you make to convince people to become fans of yours?

KM: I wouldn’t do that. (Laughs)

RG: I’d say never give up, because my whole career has been about ups and downs. I came to Formula One, got fired — same as Kevin — and then came back. Yeah, just never give up.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

KM: The travel, probably. Going to the places that we race, it takes a lot of energy. But it’s not so bad a lifestyle, really, to be honest.

RG: The hardest part is being a dad. That’s not my job, so whenever I come to a racetrack, I’m like that’s something I control 100 percent. Being a dad is every day a new thing. But yeah, leaving the house is the hardest part, especially with the kids.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

KM: Yeah, I don’t mind.

RG: I don’t mind as long as it’s when you’ve finished. Not like when you have a big piece of meat in your mouth and you’re like, “Yeah, I can’t do a picture right now.” But it’s always nice.

5. What’s a story in Formula One that doesn’t get enough coverage?

KM: I don’t even know.

RG: There are two things I see. It’s the teamwork, how much effort the mechanics and the engineers are putting in. And on TV, we’re never gonna replicate the G forces, the speed and the agility of the cars. I wish one day we’d get the TV to actually give us (the sense of speed). Like when you watch tennis, the ball goes pretty slowly on the TV, actually when you go to Roland-Garros (for the French Open) or the U.S. Open, it goes really, really fast and you’re surprised.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

KM: Probably Romain.

RG: Probably Kevin.

That makes sense. In NASCAR, a lot of the drivers are friends and hang out a lot. Do you guys have relationships with other drivers at all?

KM: Not really. Not like relationships. We spend a lot of time because we do the whole season together, so when we get off the races, we tend to spend time with our families and friends outside of racing.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

KM: In principle, not really. At least I don’t feel like an entertainer. I got here because I want to race and everything else around it is something that you have to do as well in order to get racing. The racing part is why I’m here and the rest just follows.

RG: I think we’re athletes. We do a sport. Sport is entertaining, so I guess we kind of are. But I think our first thing is to be athletes and doing high level sports.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack? Do you ever shoot the middle finger?

KM: No, only because you get a penalty if you do. Otherwise, it’s tempting sometimes.

Is that right? You get a penalty here if you do that?

RG: You better not do it. Sometimes I do it, but I just keep it in the cockpit so no one can see it.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

KM: No, not really. There’s not the same kind of teamwork in Formula One as perhaps in NASCAR. But I like the way it works in NASCAR, it’s just not the way we do things in Formula One, really.

RG: No, not really. Sometimes they do it, like they can block you on a fast lap, but I’m trying to be as fair as I can like everyone else.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

KM: The most famous is maybe (legendary F1 driver) Stirling Moss? I think so.

RG: I had dinner with Rafael Nadal. He’s pretty famous, he’s a really cool guy. So yeah. (Rally driver) Sebastien Loeb as well. I’d go with Nadal.

Was Nadal pretty down to earth?

RG: He was really, really nice. We had a nice dinner and he’s a really cool guy. We chatted about everything and had a really great relationship.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

KM: I don’t know. I’m going to go with a boring answer and say everything. There’s not one thing that I need to improve, I’m gonna try and improve everything. And every aspect of my skill set and aspect of being a racing driver, I need to improve.

RG: I think it was just managing the frustration. It’s something that’s getting better; I’ve been working on it this year. It’s getting better and better. But every year there’s something new that you can work on, and — who knows? — next year maybe it’s managing the lead in the world championship. (Smiles)

12. The last interview I did was with NASCAR driver Ty Dillon, and he wants to know: who is more athletic, Formula One drivers or NASCAR drivers?

KM: Definitely Formula One drivers.

RG: Sorry guys, we are.

The next interview that I’m going to be doing is with Danica Patrick. Can you guys come up with a question that I can ask Danica?

KM: Who’s got bigger balls — Formula One drivers or NASCAR drivers?

RG (pretends to leave): I’m out of that one. I wasn’t here. (Laughs)

Formula One Diary: Weekend wrap-up

I followed the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the seventh in a series.

Here are some “cleaning out the notebook” type items after a fun weekend in Austin:

NASCAR-style intros

Prior to Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix, Michael Buffer announced the pre-race introductions and the drivers came out of a tunnel. If you’re a NASCAR fan reading this, you’re thinking, “So what?” After all, that’s pretty standard for NASCAR (even the Buffer part, since he shows up at the Bristol night race every year).

But it actually created a bit of a stir in F1, as evidenced by writers asking about the intros after the race.

To wit: Red Bull boss Christian Horner was questioned what he thought of all the pre-race “razzmatazz.”

“It’s America, isn’t it?” Horner said. “We’re under new ownership now. We have to be prepared to try new things. If that engages the American public, then why not? It didn’t detract from the race. It seemed to get the crowd excited prior to the grand prix.”

Still, Horner said that wouldn’t be a good idea before every race.

“I don’t think it would be everybody’s cup of tea,” he said. “I can’t see that working at Silverstone, for example.”

Lewis Hamilton liked the intros and said it felt like an NFL game. But then again, he loves all things America, so that might not count.

But Sebastian Vettel said those type of pre-race intros wouldn’t work elsewhere, like in his home country of Germany.

“I think Germans are very difficult to get excited,” he said. “I think Americans appreciate that sort of atmosphere and entertainment a lot more. I think Germans are maybe a little slower on that front.”

Give Haas a chance

You may have seen recently where Haas F1 Team owner Gene Haas said he wouldn’t stay in Formula One for long if he couldn’t win.

So I asked him on Sunday morning whether he really meant that or if he was just trying to send a signal to F1 that it needs to level the playing field a bit.

His answer? Pretty much the same thing he said before.

Realistically, if I don’t have a chance to win, what am I here for?” he said. “And I’m not saying I want to win every race, but I just want to have a chance maybe in one race out of 20 to have the opportunity to be competitive. And we don’t have that.

“If we don’t have a chance of winning here — under some strategy or randomness or whatever — then yeah, I don’t think I’m going to run in the back forever.

“I’m not here to have a five-year plan of staying in the back. If I don’t have a chance of winning once in awhile or at least being competitive, I don’t think it’s really what I’d call a fair race. You have to have that chance.”

Haas, like some of the other mid-pack team owners, is hoping to see Liberty Media (F1’s new owners) get some new rules in place to help make the sport more competitive overall.

Spending cap?

A possible spending limit has been discussed in the F1 world, just like it has in NASCAR (Richard Petty Motorsports owner Andrew Murstein recently proposed such an idea).

But I’ve always felt that wouldn’t work, because how would it be policed? You really think teams who try to find ways around every rule would be honest about what they’re spending?

However, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told me Sunday morning there’s definitely a way it could be successful.

“There needs to be an outside accounting firm — one of the big ones — sitting in each team to control it,” he said. “I see it like this: The tax authorities know pretty well what we’re doing, so why would an outside firm not be able to do that? If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

He makes a good point.

NASCAR has the right idea

McLaren boss Zak Brown says NASCAR does a couple things (in addition to driver intros) that F1 could learn from.

First, he believes NASCAR does a good job getting the word out that a race is in town — something F1 doesn’t always do as an industry.

You go to the China Grand Prix, leave the circuit, you’re in Shanghai — you don’t know there’s a Formula One grand prix going on,” he said. “NASCAR does a good job of lining up all their trucks outside the city and then they come in and it’s the ‘circus in town’ type of (thing). So NASCAR, there’s a lot to learn from the theatrical elements of how they put on a show.”

In addition, Brown says F1 drivers only have contractual obligations to their teams for appearances; there’s nothing required by F1 outside the track, like with NASCAR’s winner circle program (where drivers have to make appearances to promote certain races).

That’s something he’d like to see changed.

“Moving forward, so it doesn’t take out of our (appearances) allocation — because we need as much driver time as we can get — it would be a good idea that when a driver is issued a superlicense (to race in F1), with that comes a certain amount of obligation to the sport,” Brown said. “And then when the sport wants to go do a promotion in London or Austin, they can say, ‘You owe us six days as part of our superlicense contract.'”

So although F1 does some things better in terms of publicity (particularly in requiring every driver to speak to the media after a race), NASCAR is ahead of F1 on some other promotional aspects.


Sunday night diary on inconsistent officiating in both F1 and NASCAR

— Sunday morning diary on how to follow F1 as a new fan

— Saturday diary on the fan reception for Haas in Austin

—  Friday afternoon diary on Haas F1 Team’s growing pains

— Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day

Formula One Diary: Sunday morning

I’m following the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the fifth in a series.


I had the chance to chat with a group of Formula One fans at the tweetup this morning, and they gave me an education on the best way for casual fans to start getting more into F1.

First, you have to pick a driver or team from the top group — Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull — or you’ll likely never get the satisfaction of a win. Drivers from the top three teams have won all 16 races so far this season, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel combining to win 12 of those.

But then fans also need to choose a driver or team from the second group — which is why those people were attending a tweetup on what’s known as Haas Hill.

Though most of them were wearing the gear of their primary driver, the fans said they’ve chosen Haas F1 Team as their underdog pick — and they find that makes the sport more enjoyable.

That jives with what Haas team principal Guenther Steiner and team owner Gene Haas told me Sunday morning when I asked what new fans should know about Formula One.

“The top three teams are typically going to be one to two seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field — but the rest of the field is within a second,” Haas said. “So you can find a lot of excitement watching the cars in the back dice it up, because they’re trying to beat the cars in that group.

“You really have two different races going on here at the same time.”

Steiner said new F1 fans need to pay attention to what’s going on at the front of the field and who is going to be champion. But when they look further down the running order, the appreciation of the mid-pack battle can really add to the viewing experience.

“They need to look at who we race,” Steiner said. “We are not racing for the win, we are racing midfield. There is a big fight going on in the midfield — with Renault, with Toro Rosso, with Williams — which for a new team is quite surprising.

“In the last 20 years, all the new teams who came in are gone already. And all together, they made maybe three or four points (points are only awarded for top-10 finishes in F1). In two seasons, we’ve gotten more than 70 points — and we keep on going. So they should cheer for us.”

In addition, Haas said the pit strategies and tire strategies (there are several different compounds teams use in the race, which are distinguished by color) enhance the experience once fans figure out the complexities.

“If you can start to understand a little bit about that, the whole sport really becomes very interesting,” he said.

But ultimately, one of the biggest differences between F1 and NASCAR is the fastest car almost always wins. And the 10 fastest cars are often the top 10 finishers.

So every single position gained is an achievement against the best of the best, with teams and drivers who travel around the globe to compete at the highest level of motorsports.

“Nobody here gives you a break,” Haas said. “Nobody here would give you a helping hand when it comes to winning a race. So you know when you beat these people, they gave it their all and you gave it your all, and at the end of it, whoever finished ahead wasn’t something that was given to you. You had to earn it.”


Saturday diary on the fan reception for Haas in Austin

—  Friday afternoon diary on Haas F1 Team’s growing pains

— Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day

Formula One Diary: Saturday

I’m following the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the fourth in a series.

Inside a van with Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and development driver Santino Ferrucci, one of them has a discovery.

Whoever was in the van before them left an iPhone in the backseat.

Immediately, the drivers start trying to figure out if they can discover the owner. The phone isn’t password protected, so they learn the language is set to Spanish.

Another piece of evidence: It also has an image of Fernando Alonso on the lock screen — and Alonso is on the stage at the Saturday afternoon Fan Forum where they’re currently headed.

So it must be Alonso’s phone, Grosjean decides.

“It’s in Spanish, so there are not too many it could be,” Grosjean says. “Carlos (Sainz) or Fernando.”

“I don’t think Carlos has a picture of Fernando on his phone,” Ferrucci says with a laugh.

“You have a picture of me on your phone,” Grosjean cracks back.

Thinking he could prank his veteran F1 colleague, Grosjean begins to snap a series of obnoxious selfies with Magnussen and Ferrucci for Alonso to discover later.

The van pulls up to the backstage area of the amphitheater where the Fan Forum is being held, and Alonso is just finishing up. He walks toward the Haas drivers on the way to his vehicle.

But…it’s not his phone. It belongs to one of the women who work for McLaren, not the driver himself.

“Oops,” Grosjean says with a laugh, realizing he left a bunch of selfies on a stranger’s phone. “Enjoy.”

Romain Grosjean, right, and Santino Ferrucci, left, laugh with a McLaren employee after the woman received her phone that was left behind in a track van and discovered by the Haas F1 Team.

At the Fan Forum, the drivers — along with team owner Gene Haas and team principal Guenther Steiner — emerge onstage to loud cheers. They are America’s only Formula One team — the first in decades — so this is their chance to soak up some of the hometown love.

But that warm welcome turns out to be nothing compared to what’s waiting for them a few minutes later at a place called Haas Hill.

The vans, now with a police escort, pull up to an open fan area overlooking Turn 19. It’s the primary gathering spot for Haas F1 Team fans, and it literally has #HaasHill painted on the grass.

The drivers walk through a large crowd of people who are very happy to see them and step into a gazebo area with fans gathered on all sides. As fans wave flags, hold up Haas F1 Team scarves (some while chanting like at a soccer game) and yell out things like “THANK YOU, GENE,” the drivers and team executives sign autographs and pose for pictures.

Haas himself gets as big of an autograph crowd as the drivers, with the fans seemingly thrilled to get an up-close interaction with the man who gave American fans a home team to cheer for after so many years.

It’s odd to see Haas in this environment. At a NASCAR track, he’s just another team owner — even despite owning the cars of popular drivers at Stewart-Haas Racing.

But here? He practically gets the rock star treatment from fans.

Gene Haas signs for fans gathered on Haas Hill at Circuit of the Americas.

Then came the coolest part of the day for the drivers — who otherwise aren’t having a very enjoyable weekend on the track (they’ve combined for three spins and neither made it past the second round of qualifying).

As police cleared a path, the drivers walked down the grass to the bottom of Haas Hill for a pre-publicized photo opp. Think of it as one big team photo — with fans included as the team.

With a photographer on an elevated lift giving the OK, fans cheered loudly as they showed their support for the second-year team.

Personally, I was blown away and hadn’t expected to see that many people. I thought there might be a couple dozen Haas fans to greet the drivers, but there were hundreds.

Clearly, American F1 fans are all-in on the team — it’s just that outside F1, the team still hasn’t made much of a dent in the consciousness of the mainstream sports fan. Heck, they’re not even on the radar of many NASCAR fans — which seems to be a shame, given the American pride associated with NASCAR.

Back in the van, Ferrucci has a discovery: Another phone left behind by someone. This time, Grosjean can’t solve the mystery; it has British settings, so it could be anyone.

Ferrucci proceeds to take selfies anyway, having learned from his senior teammate.

Santino Ferrucci takes selfies with Romain Grosjean on a mystery phone after they discovered it in the backseat of a track van.

As it turns out, the owner is eventually found: A staff member with the Mercedes team that is currently dominating Formula One with Lewis Hamilton.

Given the Mercedes cars qualified first and third in advance of Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea for the Haas drivers to give the phone back.

A ransom in exchange for technical information might have been a better idea.


—  Friday afternoon diary on Haas F1 Team’s growing pains

— Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day

Formula One Diary: Friday afternoon

I’m following the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the third in a series.

For an organization in only its second year, Haas F1 Team is doing quite well. Twice this season it has had double-points finishes — where both drivers finish in the top 10 — and that’s extremely rare for new teams in an ultra-competitive sport.

The paddock has noticed. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso said Thursday that “what Haas has managed to do in the last two years is quite impressive.”

“Two consecutive years in a very demanding sport like F1, competing at a good level, is a great achievement,” Alonso said, also calling Haas’ success “a very good thing for the sport.”

But there are also growing pains for a young team, and one such instance was on display during a rough practice session on Friday afternoon.

In Formula One, teams are allowed to design fancy-looking pieces that help generate downforce. They are attached to the nose, the sides, the floor and even the rear to redirect the exhaust. Unlike NASCAR, there’s no template to measure such things, so creativity rules.

One such instance was a new design tweak Haas brought this weekend. As I mentioned in the Friday morning post, Haas made a big change to a piece of the car called bargeboards, and the enhancement had created some buzz amongst the media this weekend.

The thought was Haas’ design could help its cars perform better in the race. And while that still may be the case eventually, it’s not what happened in practice.

An up-close look at the new bargeboards. The piece to the right is what came loose.
After Romain Grosjean spun early in the second practice session, he told the team via radio it had a “massive, massive, massive” aero problem.

“I don’t think I can do anything,” he said. “(Another run) is not going to work. It’s pointless.”

So what was the issue? Well, after he came back into the garage, the team discovered part of the bargeboard actually fell off. One of the team members thought they saw it on TV sitting somewhere in Turn 20.

That meant the team had to spend valuable time replacing the brackets that held the bargeboards in place — not just on Grosjean’s car, but also Kevin Magnussen’s.

The team had to scramble during practice to replace the new bargeboard brackets, which required removing the nose of the car.
Grosjean said later it was unclear whether the bracket just couldn’t handle the additional load or if the bargeboard fell victim to one of the track’s many curbs. Either way, the team will need to come up with a solution to secure them better.
But that wasn’t even the most dramatic part of practice. After Grosjean spun out, Magnussen almost ran into the back of him while trying to pass later in the lap — and had to dart to the inside of a corner to avoid contact.

“Get out of the way, please!” Magnussen said on the team radio (though Grosjean couldn’t hear him).

“Extremely intelligent there from Kevin,” Grosjean said sarcastically.

Magnussen, who also spun out later in the session and flat-spotted his tires, said in an interview afterward the near-incident was just a “miscommunication.”

“There’s no problem there,” he said twice.


“It was a bit close, but that was fine,” Grosjean said in a separate interview, adding the two drivers didn’t discuss it. “Not a big deal.”

Ultimately, Grosjean finished the session in 20th — last — and Magnussen was 14th. Fortunately, there’s one more practice on Saturday before the all-important qualifying later that afternoon.

“Yeah, it wasn’t our best Friday,” Grosjean said.


Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day

Formula One Diary: Friday morning

I’m following the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the second in a series.

At precisely 4 p.m. on Thursday — everything is precise in Formula One — members of the Haas F1 Team set out on their weekly track walk.

Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, along with a team of engineers, walked out of their garage stall and onto the pit lane, past the onlookers who paid big bucks for the privilege to set foot in sacred territory before cars hit the track, and up the steep hill into Turn 1.

This was part of the ritual every driver and team undergoes in F1, which is a crucial part of the weekend. I got invited to tag along, and it was extremely cool to walk the 3.43-mile circuit — which is only five years old and thus a very beautiful and modern facility.

But I didn’t understand why we were doing it.

Members of the Haas F1 Team walk the Circuit of the Americas to prepare for the race weekend.

So I asked Santino Ferrucci, the Connecticut teenager who is a Haas development driver. He explained the drivers and teams look for changes to the track since their last visit, as well as visual markers that will serve as braking points. They examine any unusual curbing and get a better feel for the line into the corners.

OK, but isn’t that kind of late? I mean, it was less than 24 hours before they hit the track. Shouldn’t they already know the layout?

Ferrucci explained in this type of racing, absolute perfection is required. Where NASCAR drivers can go by feel, F1 drivers have to be extremely detailed about their line. So as the drivers walk the track, the team takes notes to record the feedback.

Grosjean even brought his drone — operated by a team member — to shadow the group as we walked the circuit. Although I’m not sure how much of that was for studying purposes and how much was because the aerial photos are pretty sweet.

Anyway, all of this is done before cars ever hit the track on Friday. The team spent the entire day Thursday prepping the car and essentially worked until it was ready.

In F1, there are no “garage hours” like in NASCAR. Instead, there is a curfew. For example: The curfew — where teams had to stop working on the cars and be out of the paddock — was 11 p.m. on Thursday night and ended at 7 a.m. Friday morning. But Friday’s curfew doesn’t begin until midnight, which means teams often eat all three meals at the track.

Members of the Haas F1 Team eat breakfast in the team hospitality area before getting to work early Friday morning.

The one bit of respite came on Wednesday night, after everyone had arrived in Austin.

Haas F1 Team held its annual team dinner to kick off its home track weekend, with a group of 70 or so people gathering in an upstairs room of Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que.

As country music played and those in attendance sipped Shiner Bock in between bites of meat, you would have thought it was a room full of Americans if not for the accents making it sound like a British pub.

With everyone in street clothes, Grosjean and Magnussen blended right in with their team members. There was nothing formal about the evening until team principal Guenther Steiner hopped up on a stage at the front of the room to address the group, telling everyone to have a good weekend.

The Haas F1 Team annual Austin dinner to celebrate the team’s home track race in “Haastin.”

The team, of course, already knew what was on the line. All races are important, but it would be special for the team to have a double points showing (only the top 10 finishers score points in F1) as it did in Japan during the most recent grand prix.

Steiner told reporters about an upgrade to the car on Thursday — a modification to something called the bargeboard, which honestly is beyond my technical understanding — but it could potentially help the team stay competitive.

Of course, no one really knows until the cars hit the track for the first practice session — FP1, they call it — later Friday morning.

Related: Thursday diary on media day

One of the T-shirts passed out to team members during the annual Haas F1 Team dinner in Austin.

Formula One Diary: Thursday

I’m following the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the first in a series.

It’s five minutes before Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen is supposed to be at the track for his mandatory media session, but there’s no sight of him yet in the team’s hospitality chalet.

At a table inside the temporary building, which serves as a headquarters in the paddock area, the team’s communications chief Mike Arning — who was Tony Stewart’s longtime public relations representative in NASCAR — is anticipating Magnussen’s arrival.

“Here I am waiting on the driver of the 20,” Arning says. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

There’s supposedly no fine for being late or anything, it’s just that in the F1 world, people are punctual. It’s considered a bit rude to be late.

Finally, a minute before Magnussen has to be at the other end of the paddock to face the cameras, he bursts through the door with a smile.

Some of the team members laugh and razz him a bit. Aren’t you supposed to be at the press conference?

“It’s not for another 30 seconds,” Magnussen says with a grin.

The 25-year-old drops his belongings in his dressing room area — every driver has one inside the team hospitality areas — and begins a brisk walk to the media bullpen where roughly 40 cameras are positioned around a square, fenced-in area.

Kevin Magnussen, left, chats with Haas F1 Team development driver Santino Ferrucci on his way to the F1 media bullpen.

This is the standard Thursday at a Formula One event. Before cars ever hit the track on Friday, drivers participate in a long, full day of media.

It starts with six drivers in the FIA-mandated media sessions. The drivers rotate, but both Haas F1 Team drivers — Magnussen and Romain Grosjean — are on the list today because the race is on the team’s home turf.

The drivers do 30 minutes in the TV bullpen — where a TV rights-holder from each country that covers F1 is positioned to get interviews — followed by 30 minutes in a slickly produced news conference for print media that is beamed all over the world.

The bullpen interviews are the best chance for outlets like Viasat (from Magnussen’s home country of Denmark) and Canal (which covers the French driver Grosjean) to gather content to use for the weekend.

TV stations from all over the world gather at the media bullpen for driver interviews.

Then every team has small group sessions, where drivers will chat with TV or with print reporters back at the chalets. Even the top drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel go through this and seem to react as if it’s standard practice. It’s just part of the routine.

Hamilton has cut back on some of his media sessions as he’s become uber successful, but he is still made available to the media a few times per weekend.  I checked with F1 beat writer Nate Saunders to see if this was really true — because I was a bit skeptical coming from the NASCAR world, where some drivers will go weeks at a time without a media session — but he confirmed that is the case.

Aside from that, drivers do a number of one-on-one interviews, as do executives; Haas team principal Guenther Steiner alone has six of them on Thursday.

As the teams work all day to set up the cars before an 11 p.m. curfew (this after leaving the hotel at 8 a.m.), the drivers are busy being the international stars they are. Rarely do the drivers move through the paddock without a camera of some kind following their movements, snapping away or recording video.

For example: While Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg messed around with a shuffleboard table in the media center while waiting for his turn in the press conference, a half-dozen cameras gathered to document the moment.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg plays around with the media center shuffleboard table while waiting for his press conference to begin.

Though it may be hard to get into the F1 paddock in the first place, this much is clear: The driver access once inside is pretty impressive.

One reason is the drivers have nowhere to go. The drivers do not have motorhomes — those would be impractical for international travel — so if they aren’t in their garage stalls, then they’re in their hospitality chalets across the way. There, they can either eat with their team or sit in the common areas (which have tables, couches and a TV). Or just chill in their dressing rooms.

I was intrigued by the dressing rooms, which are in the chalets alongside offices for the public relations/marketing staff and team executives. Haas F1 Team allowed me to peek inside Grosjean’s room. Here’s what it looks like:

Keep checking back for more posts throughout the weekend.