It’s official. Barring Manor, who will announce their lineup, all drivers on the grid for the 2016 season have now been announced.
Most teams have retained their 2015 lineups – every team, in fact, except Renault. New entrants Haas F1 last year signed former Lotus driver Romain Grosjean, who will see returning F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez, who had a year off after a ride with Sauber, but with not much success.
And yet another 2014 F1 driver has now made a comeback to Formula One – and it’s Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, who replaces Pastor Maldonado at the outfit. Maldonado’s contract had initially been confirmed last year, but due to contract issues and problems with the Venezuelan driver’s chief sponsor, PDVSA,
The now 23-year-old made his Formula One debut in 2014, driving for McLaren – but he had shown promise much before.
The son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen, who has a class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, Kevin was born into motorsport – and regarded his father as his hero, a fact he has alluded to in several interviews.
Like every driver on the current Formula One circuit, the younger Magnussen made his debut in karting, and then winning the Danish Formula Ford championship in his debut year, 2008.
In 2010, Magnussen was signed to McLaren’s Young Drivers Program
He’d move outside Denmark the next year, competing internationally in Formula Renault and doing well on two different legs of the championship. He would continue that form, and quickly moved up the motorsports ranks in the coming years, and in his first German Formula 3 season, he was voted rookie of the year, putting in a standout performance at the year’s first race in Oschersleben, Germany – winning the same award Mick Schumacher won early last year.
His 2011 Formula 3 results were so successful – seven wins, eight pole positions and nine podium finishes in all – that McLaren broadened his role with the team at the end of that year.
Beginning his testing role in the Young Driver Program in 2012, Magnussen, who till then had been using simulators, set the best times during the three-day testing weekend – and eventually covered a distance big enough that he earned his FIA Super Licence, the qualification all drivers need to be able to compete in Formula One.
Magnussen finished out 2013 in Formula Renault 3.5, and it was announced during the course of that year that Mexican driver Sergio Perez would be leaving the team, eventually bought by Force India, and Magnussen would drive alongside 2009 World Champion Jenson Button that year.
And he made an impression immediately. Driving at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, the first of the year, Magnussen finished on the podium – only the second driver to do so on their debut after Lewis Hamilton 7 years prior. Finishing 2nd behind Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Magnussen and teammate Button rounded off the podium for team McLaren.
Although Magnussen did not have many high-scoring points finishes besides at the Australian Grand Prix, he did have a 5th place finish in Russia and finished 14 of the year’s races in the points.
It was perhaps unfortunate for Magnussen that he was demoted to a reserve driver, but a decision McLaren were eventually expected to take, with 2005 and 2006 champion Fernando Alonso deciding to return to the team.
Magnussen would still get one more race – the following year’s Australian Grand Prix – following the injuries Alonso sustained during testing early in the year.
Unfortunately for the Dane, he was informed via an email from McLaren boss Ron Dennis’ personal assistant that he had been let go of by McLaren. He had been in consideration for a seat at Haas before Ferrari test and reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez was eventually given the spot instead.
After being unceremoniously dumped by his long-term team on his birthday, Magnussen, who impressed considerably in the single year he had to put his skills on display in Formula One, has now once again found himself with a seat.
He is the only the second Danish driver in Formula One to have a points finish, with the first his father, Jan. Magnussen will partner Formula One debutant and GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer at the team, which now looks to have enough strength to move upto the midfield, rather than bring up the middle of the rear as predecessor Lotus did.
Renault have now chosen also to de-emphasize their relationship with Red Bull, who are the only team running on Renault engines, as they choose to focus on their works team, which had its biggest F1 success with Fernando Alonso.
With the departure of Pastor Maldonado and his replacement by a driver who consistently delivered in his single year in Formula One, things appear to be looking up for team Renault.
But Magnussen and Palmer will now have big shoes to fill, with the team still so closely associated with Alonso, long regarded as one of the game-changers in the sport of Formula One.