Magnussen Q&A: McLaren split was on my birthday via email

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Kevin Magnussen may have missed his chance to race for McLaren, and in 2016 he will not be part of the team - as he found via email, on his birthday - but he is not giving up on F1 yet, as he tells Jonathan Noble.

Q: We've seen reports that you and McLaren will part company at the end of this season? Is that true?

 

A: Yes. 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.

 

Q: Were you disappointed to hear the news in an email from Ron's PA?

 

A: Oh, I didn't really mind. That's just a detail, isn't it? There's no need to make a fuss about stuff like that.

 

Q: Was the news expected?

 

A: Oh yes. Look, I'd already made it clear that I was 100 percent determined to race next year, and obviously McLaren already have two contracted race drivers for next year in Jenson [Button] and Fernando [Alonso]. So, well, three into two won't go, will it? I was only ever going to have a chance of a McLaren race drive in 2016 if one of them was going to retire or whatever, and that's probably not now going to happen, so it was pretty clear that there was going to be no room for me at McLaren.

 

Q: How would you describe your time at McLaren?

 

A: Good and bad, I guess. I joined their young driver programme in 2010, and obviously I was massively excited to be a part of the McLaren family at that time. Martin [Whitmarsh] was a big help in my early days, and over the years I also developed positive relationships with quite a lot of the other good McLaren guys. The majority of the people at McLaren are good people, in fact. There are a few too many to name but I want to mention Aki Hintsa, McLaren's doctor, who helped me a lot, especially in my early days. As you probably know, Aki is fighting cancer at the moment. He's a great guy and I really wish him well.

 

Q: You started your McLaren race career last year almost perfectly, with second place in Melbourne, didn't you?

 

A: Yeah, that was a good day. If only Nico Rosberg's Merc had broken down as well as Lewis Hamilton's, then I would have kicked off my Formula 1 career with a win! But, yeah, second place was a good way to start off - I was told it was the best Formula 1 debut for 18 years, since Jacques Villeneuve's second place for Williams, also in Melbourne, in 1996, so that wasn't too bad. And after Australia, I had quite a few good results - I got through to Q3 16 times out of 19, which wasn't too bad for a rookie in a not-brilliant car - and I scored points most of the time, too.

 

You're never really satisfied though - I'm always my own harshest critic because the only result that truly satisfies me is a win - but by the end of the season I had reason to be hopeful that I was going to be retained as a race driver for 2015, but in the end, the decision-making process dragged on all through the autumn and I only found out that I'd been dropped in mid-December, which left me no time to find an alternative drive. I was gutted, I admit. Not a great Christmas.

 

Q: What happened in that famous December 2014 board meeting?

 

A: I don't know - I wasn't there obviously. You should ask someone who was there, I guess. But it's ancient history now, isn't it? There's no point worrying about it now. I've moved on.

 

Q: How was this year for you?

 

A: Well, frustrating, obviously. I've been racing since I was six. Racing is what I do. Racing is who I am. Racing is my life. So, to be honest, I struggled, particularly at first. But, gradually, I pulled myself together, and I began to immerse myself in the engineering function, both at races and at the McLaren Technology Centre.

I learned a lot, in fact, especially on the engineering side as I say, and of course, that's an increasingly important aspect of a Formula 1 driver's skillset these days. But of course I'd much rather have been racing, obviously.

 

Q: Jenson has publicly praised you recently, describing you as "very talented and extremely quick", and hailing you as "clearly the best driver available". He also says you learned “a hell of a lot” when you were racing alongside him last year.

 

A: Yes, and that's true, I really did. Jenson is a cool guy, a good friend in fact, and it was very nice of him to say those things about me. He was a great team-mate - and a lot faster than most people realise. People tend to regard him as smooth and calm and all that, and that's true, but he's also bloody quick. And this season we're seeing that in fact he's every bit as good as Fernando, which not a lot of people were predicting would be the case before the season started. It hasn't surprised me though, not at all.

 

Q: What does 2016 hold for you?

 

A: I've had good talks with a number of Formula 1 teams, and some of them are still going on. So I have chances there. Formula 1 is still my aim. My ambitions haven't changed. I know how to win races, I know how to win championships and I still intend to be Formula 1 world champion. That won't change.

 

Q: But what about if you don't find a Formula 1 drive?

 

A: Well, as I say, I was put on Earth to race, so I'll race. Again, I don't want to go into details, but I'm pleased to say that a number of exciting opportunities have come my way over the past few days and weeks, and I can tell you for sure that I'll take one of those opportunities, definitely.

 

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Kevin Magnussen
Teams McLaren
Article type Interview