The arrival of young new F1 drivers usually sends the fans websites into a frenzy of debate. Their pre-F1 history is poured over and comparisons with others who have trodden the same path to success are frequently made.
The arrival of the affectionately nicknamed K-Mag at McLaren was no different and being the son of Le Mans winner and former F1 driver, Jan Magnussen, merely added to Kevin’s allure. During the 2012 season, Magnussen won the Renault 3.5 series by a whopping 60 points from the other McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne.
His début in big boy racing couldn’t have started any better. He crossed the line in the 2014 season opener in Melbourne in P3 and ahead of McLaren team mate Jenson Button. K-Mag was later upgraded to P2 following the disqualification of RBR’s Daniel Ricciardo.
But that was as good as it got for the likeable Dane. Magnussen’s next best result was fifth place in Russia, but he was outclassed by Button and finished the season with just 55 points to Jenson’s 126. Following the appointment of Fernando Alonso by McLaren for the 2015 season, when the toss-up was made between retaining Button or Magnussen, it was the Dane who lost out.
Magnussen returned to test/reserve driver status but following Alonso’s crash in winter testing, Kevin deputised for the Spaniard at the Australian GP. After qualifying last, unfortunately Magnussen then failed to make it to the starting grid on Sunday following a Honda engine failure on the formation lap.
Then in October came the sad news for K-Mag, that Kevin was being released by McLaren. Kevin revealed how this was confirmed to him. “When the date of McLaren’s option on me passed, I was kind of waiting to hear from them. I didn’t hear anything for a few days, and then, after about a week, when I saw an email from Ron’s [Dennis] personal assistant Justine [Bowen] in my inbox, I had an idea of what it might be. It was a short paragraph explaining that there would be nothing for me in the future. It arrived on my birthday, actually.”
Ron Dennis is not known for being particularly ‘touchy feely’, bet hey… “Happy Birthday Kevin, you’re fired… Love Ron”?
Now the McLaren boss reveals Magnussen was released because he failed to perform.
“He was given every opportunity, a season in Formula One followed by very clear goals that he had to achieve in 2014 and he didn’t achieve those goals,” said Dennis. “He knows himself and, no question, he knew that he didn’t perform as he should have done this season.”
Magnussen is hoping for a seat at the renamed Marussia-Manor F1 team in 2016 and recently tested for Porsche in an LMP1 car. However, since then VW have announced cuts to their LMP1 programme and Audi and Porsche will field just two cars in 2016. It appears Kevin’s best hope is now in DTM.
The McLaren boss is philosophical about Magnussen’s F1 hopes. “He is a good, talented driver, more than capable of driving in Formula One. But there are several drivers capable of driving in Formula One, who for one reason or another don’t get that opportunity. Both he and all drivers that come to McLaren and leave McLaren always get continuous support if they want to receive it. We don’t walk away from our drivers and we’re always supportive of our drivers”.
Then almost as though the birthday email is on his mind, Dennis explains he feels McLaren have done more than their bit. “Basically we do a great deal to bring young drivers on. We care. We take these young people and we pay for their careers: we paid for Kevin’s career, we paid for Lewis [Hamilton]’s career; people forget we paid for [Nico] Rosberg’s career in the early days.”
Yes, we hear you Ron… but really? Sacking someone by email on their birthday? What next – a horse head for Christmas in bed between Christian and Ginger?