Great Dane: Kevin Magnussen's rise to Formula 1

By on Thursday, November 14, 2013
British Formula Three in 2011

British Formula Three in 2011

The news that Kevin Magnussen will replace Sergio Pérez at McLaren in 2014 had been expected, but it’s nonetheless a bold gamble from a team aiming to return to the front next season.

McLaren’s attempts to place Magnussen at Marussia or perhaps Force India for his rookie campaign – as Ferrari has done with Jules Bianchi – were ultimately fruitless. Rather than let Magnussen sit on the pit wall for a year, McLaren took the decision to promote Magnussen at the expense of Pérez.

Considering the current financial climate of the sport, it’s refreshing to see a driver join the grid – especially at a top team – without the need to bring money. Pérez was hugely unfortunate to join the team during a turbulent season and arguably the Mexican could still be an asset for another team, but McLaren has seen enough of Magnussen to be convinced that he is ready for the big time.

The Magnussen name should be familiar to Formula 1 fans as Kevin’s father Jan raced in the sport during the 1990s. Magnussen senior debuted for McLaren in the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix, substituting for the unwell Mika Hakkinen and finished the race in 10th place. He moved to Stewart in 1997 but was dropped mid-way through 1998 after scoring just a solitary point. He has since enjoyed a productive career in sportscars, including several class wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Maiden FR3.5 win at Spa in 2012

Maiden FR3.5 win at Spa in 2012

His son, Kevin, has followed in his father’s footsteps and will make his debut in Melbourne next March. So how has Magnussen progressed through the ranks to join the illustrious list of McLaren drivers?

After a successful time in karting, Magnussen stepped up to single-seaters in 2008, winning the Danish Formula Ford championship with 11 wins from 15 starts. The following season he raced in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC and finished as a distant runner up to Antonio Felix da Costa and also participated in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship, finishing in seventh place.

The next step was German Formula Three in 2010, where Magnussen claimed victory in his maiden race but ultimately finished the season in third place, behind current GP2 racers Tom Dillmann and Daniel Abt. Magnussen competed in the British Formula Three championship in 2011 for Carlin and won seven times on his way to finishing as runner-up to Felipe Nasr.

Clinching the FR3.5 crown this season

Clinching the FR3.5 crown this season

Magnussen remained with Carlin in 2012 as he stepped up to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, claiming a single victory in his rookie year. But three pole positions showed the promise: it was simply a case of harnessing his speed and knowing when to utilise it.

The Dane moved to DAMS for 2013 and won the title at the penultimate race of the season, claiming eight pole positions, five wins and a total of 13 podiums to beat fellow McLaren youngster Stoffel Vandoorne and Red Bull’s da Costa to the crown. Magnussen only once finished outside of the points and it should have been six wins, but for a minor technical irregularity. Magnussen eventually finished the year 60 points ahead of Vandoorne.

Magnussen's performances had grabbed the attention of McLaren and in 2012 he became a fully fledged member of their young driver programme. He was rewarded for his efforts with two days in the MP4-27 at the Yas Marina Circuit at the end of last year, completing 91 laps and topping the time sheets on his first day of running. Magnussen's second taste of Formula 1 action came at Silverstone in July, when he completed 100 laps in the MP4-28 and set the fastest time of the day. Along with his work in the simulator and his performances in FR3.5, he had done enough to convince McLaren to promote him to a Formula 1 race seat for 2014.

Magnussen test


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