Kevin Magnussen. It’s a name we have become familiar with in recent years as the talented Dane has caused quite a stir in the world of motorsport. Similarly to Nico Rosberg, Kevin has earned his stripes in the lower formula and has failed to rest on his laurels and let his father launch him into the spotlight. Evidently, he has the right mentality, proven pace in Formula Renault and a 3.5 title to show for his efforts. Can he reinvigorate McLaren and launch them to the front. Well, we can remember what happened last time McLaren signed a fresh young prospect…
|(c) Morio (via Wikimedia Commons)|
Kevin’s Meteoric Rise
Kevin has wasted no time on his journey to Formula One. The 21-year-old Dane graduated from karting in 2007 and competed in the Danish Formula Ford Championship in 2008, where he won the title in sublime fashion. His 11 race victories and 12 pole positions from just a 15 race calendar symbolised both his raw speed and intelligence behind the wheel. His maturity was evident as he was consistent at such a tender age.
His breakthrough year was certainly eventful. Kevin raced in several other series’ including his first outing in a Formula Renault 2.0 car. 2009 saw him claim the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title in 2.0, as he finished runner-up to Antonio Felix Da Costa – a rivalry which would resume in earnest in the Formula Renault 3.5 series. Prior to his debut in 3.5, excellent campaigns in the German and British Formula Three followed. His first season in 3.5 came in 2012, which proved to be a pivotal year in Magnussen’s development. He managed P7 in the championship, yet more importantly, Kevin received his first experience of Formula One, as he participated in the Young Drivers Test at Abu Dhabi behind the wheel at McLaren. The mileage meant that Kevin obtained his all important FIA Super Licence, which opened up more doors for the future.
His second major career title came last year, as he fended off Stoffel Vandornne and Antonio Felix Da Costa to take the 3.5 championship. It was an impressive accolade, which coupled with his outings in the Young Drivers Test, proved enough to convince McLaren to sign him for 2014. Who could blame then. While Sergio Perez perhaps deserved the opportunity of another season at McLaren considering their poor machinery in the last campaign, refusing Magnussen the opportunity in 2014 would perhaps stall his career and open up the opportunity for another team to pinch his talents from under McLaren’s nose.
One Magnussen Follows Another…
The Magnussen name has a history in Formula One, as Kevin’s arrival at the pinnacle of motorsport sees him follow in the footsteps of his father, Jan Magnussen. Jan’s brief stint in Formula One saw him begin at McLaren in 1995, as he debuted in the Pacific Grand Prix. He finished in P10. He competed fully in both the 1997 and 1998 seasons with the newly established Stewart team and scored his only points in the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix, with a sixth place finish. However, poor results prior to this meant that he was replaced immediately afterwards by the Dutchman, Jos Verstappen. Admittedly, many of Jan’s issues were a result of his fiery attitude which failed to endear him to Sir Jackie.
His struggles in Formula One did not deter Jan from pursuing his motorsport career, as he soon entered GT racing, where he exceeded expectations. The Dane has won the Le Mans 24 Hours an astonishing four times with Chevrolet Corvette and is now competing in the Danish Touring Car Championship. At the age of 40, his career shows no signs of relenting. While Formula One may have been an unsuccessful venture for Jan, Kevin looks set to cement the Magnussen name in the record books.
From One Young Protégé To The Next
You may be thinking that this is a remarkably bold claim before Magnussen has even lined up on the grid in a Formula One car. However, for all the aforementioned reasons, Magnussen is a proven talent. He merely needs to convert his credentials shown in junior formula into his McLaren seat. In addition, the Woking outfit have a track record of signing dependable rookies – I am sure you remember a certain Lewis Hamilton, who burst onto the scene in 2007.
McLaren’s young driver programme does not attract the media coverage received by Red Bull’s high profile equivalent. When a rookie breaks onto the scene wearing silver caps and shirts, you can guarantee that he has talent by the bucket-load. Prior to his pit-wall departure, Martin Whitmarsh declared that Kevin was “someone very special.”
Throughout pre-season, Kevin has shown maturity beyond his years, providing the team with valuable feedback and appearing to have consistency behind the wheel. An accident in the dying moments of the Jerez test, was the only blot on an otherwise clean copy-book. With the experienced names, (such as Kevin’s teammate Jenson Button,) also requiring time to re-learn their trade in this latest era of Formula One, this is possibly the best year to be a rookie.
No driver has ever hit the ground running as well as Lewis Hamilton managed in 2007. The Brit finished on the podium in each of his first nine races in the stunning MP4-22 and eventually lost the championship by just one point, as McLaren ultimately hit the self-destruct button, with the ‘spy-gate’ scandal and the conflict between Alonso and Hamilton. However, Hamilton’s early success was partly due to the incredible mileage completed by him during the many in-season tests which were crucial to driver development at the time. Hamilton entered the sport with 8,000 miles under his belt – significantly more than Magnussen’s 3,200.
By no means am I suggesting that Kevin will challenge for the title this season. However, he has the talent and determination to challenge at some point in his career. One thing I am sure of, is that Kevin will stretch Jenson Button this season and their rivalry will certainly be a key talking point this year. It is the case of the young blood against the old guard.