Magnussen Jr is driving the talk, and now the “talk” is of Formula One

Formula 3.5 leader Kevin Magnussen is ready to make the step up to the big time, and his McLaren team appear to agree

Racing driver Kevin Magnussen is among the hottest prospects on the single-seater auto racing circuit. Holding a solid lead in this season’s Formula 3.5, his sights are firmly set on moving up a tier to Formula One – a move that might happen as early as next year. 


“Without sounding arrogant, my goal this season is to win the Formula 3.5 and my ultimate ambition is to be the Formula One champion,” said Magnussen. “Even before this season started, I knew that only a win in the 3.5 would suffice.”


Born to drive


It’s not a stretch to say that Magnussen was born behind the wheel, as his father, Jan Magnussen, is Denmark’s most successful F1 driver – he is the only Dane to bag a point in the competition from four who have tried.


“I started racing go-karts when I was just two years old, so I can’t remember a time when racing has not been a part of my life.”


In 2008, Magnussen made the jump from karting into the Danish Formula Ford competition, and in his debut season he claimed the championship. He followed that with further success racing on local circuits around Europe – in 2010, he was named ‘rookie of the year’ in the 2010 German Formula Three Championship. Then in 2012, he made the jump to F1’s second-tier competition, the Formula 3.5.


“Last season was a complete fiasco and I was very disappointed,” he said. “But the reason I am doing better this time around is not because I’m driving faster, I’m just driving better.” 


Markussen attributes his increased success to being a year older and a whole lot wiser.


“I was driving too much with my heart and not my head,” he explained. “I was making decisions based on feelings, but now I’m more mature, more patient, and I’m not risking as much.” 


And the improvement shows. Last season Magnussen finished seventh with only one win to his name. This season, however, with six races to go, he has taken three wins and currently holds a healthy 27-point lead over second-placed Stoffel Vandoorne from Belgium. 


The lead has seesawed all season between the pair but a very unlucky weekend for championship leader Vandoorn at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, the most recent race, rocketed Magnussen back to the top spot. Vandoorn was forced to retire with a compressor failure, scoring no points from either race, which meant that two thirds-place finishes for Magnussen was enough to storm 27 points ahead. Both victories, meanwhile, went to the only other Dane in the competition, Marco Sørensen, a junior driver with F1 team Lotus. 


Seeing as Sørensen and Magnussen are the only Danes, and that Vandoorn and him are both enrolled on McLaren’s Young Driver Programme, it is easy to imagine that a certain rivalry might exist between Magnussen and the two, but according to him racing is about focusing on yourself and forgetting about your competitors.


“I get asked all the time about whether or not there is a rivalry between me and Marco, but I just think he is a fantastic driver and I’m always happy when he does well,” he said. “The same goes for Vandoorn. In my mind it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – we are all just trying to drive the best race we can.” 


It is easy to get the sense that Magnussen’s success is based on his professional mentality and his ability to block out any thought of how other drivers are performing and just focus on his own goals. 


“It is very important to set yourself goals, not just as a driver, but also in life. There are short-term goals, like for this weekend or this month, and then there are ultimate long-term goals, such as winning Formula One.” 


His father’s son


The senior Magnussen, Jan, enjoyed a short stint in Formula One, racing in 25 Grand Prixs. Even though he only managed one point, in the 1997 Canadian GP, he is to date the most successful Danish Formula One driver in history. 


Growing up surrounded by fast cars in a household with a professional racer undoubtedly had an influence on the younger Magnussen.


“I feel that my father has had more of an indirect influence over my career than a direct one,” he revealed. “I think being my father’s son has opened up opportunities, which I otherwise might not have had. It has definitely made people notice me more.”


It often seems to be the case with children of professional athletes that there is an extra pressure to live up to the family name and success, but Magnussen says that he in no way feels pressure to compete with his father’s record and the family legacy.


“My father had his own career. I have my own, and my goals and ambitions are very different from his. He only managed to bag one point in Formula One, and while it is quite remarkable to reach that stage, my ambition is to be a Formula One champion.” 


McLaren the mentor


In 2010, at the age of just 18, Magnussen joined McLaren’s Young Driver Programme, an elite driving programme that has seen racers such as Lewis Hamilton pass through its ranks. Magnussen claims that the programme has been a big factor in his development as a racer.


“It has provided me with a lot of knowledge and experience,” Magnussen explains. “The programme has helped me gain a better understanding about the physical aspect of racing, as well as the technical side that deals with the cars.” 


And should he make the massive jump into F1, he will need all the tools available to succeed. But doubt does not seem to be a term Magnussen is familiar with.

“I feel like I am definitely ready to move to Formula One already next season.” 


And according to Magnussen, the interest is not just a one-sided pipedream and the move is already in the pipelines. 


“McLaren are very supportive of my career and there has been talk of me making the jump.”

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