Kevin Magnussen, the country’s brightest prospect in motorsport and 19-year-old son of former Formula One driver Jan Magnussen, last week took another step closer to following his father into the sport’s top tier of racing.
Currently employed by Formula One’s second ranked team, McLaren Mercedes, Magnussen’s duties have been increased ahead of the 2012 season, which should see him involved in test-driving, albeit in a simulator.
“I’m really pleased,” Magnussen told media. “The team has shown great faith in me so far and I feel that this is an important step in my career. F1 is a highly pressured, data-driven environment, and anyone who wants to get there and succeed within it has to master all the technical aspects of the discipline.”
Magnussen is clearly a rising star in the sport. After winning the Danish Formula Ford Championship in 2008 and coming third in the 2010 German Formula Three Championship, he enjoyed a fantastic season last year in the British Formula Three Championship, landing eight poles and seven victories. His win count was particularly impressive given that he only made the podium nine times, underlining that when he’s in contention he tends to win. Nevertheless, his inconsistency cost him and he had to settle for second in the end, finishing behind Carlin Motorsport teammate Felipe Nasr.
Magnussen joined McLaren’s Young Driver Programme in 2010, and according to its team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, the time was right for a promotion. “By enabling talented drivers to fulfill their potential, our Driver Development Programme is a strategic investment in the future of that business and the sport as a whole,” he told media. “We’ve been delighted by Kevin’s progress, aptitude and work ethic thus far. The time was right for him to take the next step and we look forward to helping him gain the experience he requires.”
His new duties in the programme will mostly be technical as he works on developing McLaren’s new MP4-27 car in the simulator under the guidance of McLaren’s senior test drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey. Towards the end of the season he will drive the MP4-27 in the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi. If successful in this simulator challenge, he’s likely to be promoted again in 2013 to work on the actual race car, inching him ever closer to becoming a test driver for the team’s two designated drivers and an untimely injury away from getting a Formula One start – an eventuality that would make him the fifth Danish driver to do so.
It would be recent history repeating itself as it was an occurrence like this that led to his father, Jan Magnussen, 38, making his Formula One debut for McLaren in 1995, when he stepped in to replace an unwell Mika Hakkinen. However, he didn’t get another drive and left two years later to race for Stewart in 2007 and 2008.
Kevin will not want to emulate his father’s Formula One record. Despite being a four-time winner of Le Mans and winning the 1994 British Formula Three Championship at a canter, in 25 Formula One races, Magnussen Snr, picked up just one point, in his final race, the 1998 Canadian Prix, before he was sacked.
Magnussen’s recruitment by McLaren two years ago was criticised at the time for being sentimental, and his father conceded last week that there was probably some truth in this.
“Kevin may have had a slight advantage of his surname, but what he has got out of it, he has fought for himself,” he wrote on Facebook. “I am so proud”.
And in an interview with the BBC in 2010, McLaren’s Whitmarsh argued that there was room for sentimentality in his sport.
“Jan was a great talent that we didn’t get the best out of – and when I say we, I mean Jan and us,” he said.
“Kevin understands, I think, how his father didn’t realise his potential. I liked Jan and I felt we should do something with his son. I spoke to Jan, obviously, and I think he sees the talent in his son, and in retrospect he can look back on his career and probably believe more would have been possible. There is some emotion in it because we’re emotional about our racing drivers. But we wouldn’t base it on purely here’s Jan’s son so we’re going to do it. He appears to have quite a steely character, and a slightly more focused determination than Jan, so we’ll see if we can help.”
Meanwhile, Magnussen Jnr has confirmed he will still compete in the 2012 World Series by Renault-WSR, again racing for Carlin.
Factfile | Denmark’s Formula One record
As a country:
Racing for Minardi, Nicolas Kiesa participated in five grand prixs in 2003, completing every single one … outside the points. His best finish was 12th in the 2003 German GP. He then returned in 2005, this time as Jordan’s test driver, where he failed to add to his tally of appearances. (Photo: kiesa.com)
Best finish: 12th
Jan Magnussen made his debut for McLaren in 2005, finishing 10th. He then returned to F1 with Stewart two years later, retiring in 12 of his 17 starts in 2007 and in four of his seven starts in 2008 before he was sacked. He won one point, and finished in the top ten just five times. (Photo: Jan Kaiser)
Best finish: 6th
Tom Belsø was Denmark’s first ever Formula One driver. Racing for Williams, he qualified for the 1973 Swedish Grand Prix, but was prohibited from starting due to a sponsorship problem. But in 1974, he raced twice, lasting just one lap in South Africa, and then completing the Swedish GP, finishing a creditable eighth. (Photo: Grand Prix Photo)
Best finish: 8th
Jacob ‘Jac’ Nelleman is credited with being Denmark’s fourth and final Formula One driver, but in reality he didn’t race a single second. While he officially entered the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix driving for Brabham, he failed to qualify.
Best finish: DNQ