Opinion: Why Magnussen deserves a second F1 chance

Kevin Magnussen is on the verge of a return to F1 with Renault - and Jonathan Noble says his comeback would be as good for the sport as it would be for him.

Kevin Magnussen knows a thing or two about Formula 1's school of hard knocks.

Having been told first of all at the end of 2014 that his McLaren seat was safe for the following year, he had to live with the disappointment of finding out at the last minute that Jenson Button had actually got the nod for 2015.

Then, an opportunity to return to action at last year's Australian GP to replace the unwell Fernando Alonso ended before he even made it to the grid.

Despite subsequently knuckling down behind the scenes in his reserve driver role throughout last season, things did not move in the direction he had hoped with senior team management.

A note on his birthday from Ron Dennis finally confirmed his contract was not being renewed, and then he (perhaps unfairly) was publicly criticised by the chairman for not hitting targets.

"He knows himself and there is no question he knew that he did not perform as he should have done," said Dennis during an Abu Dhabi press conference.

Things were not looking good.

Not giving up

Amid all that difficulty – and having seen his hopes of landing a Haas driver dashed when it opted for Romain Grosjean instead – you could have forgiven Magnussen if he had decided to give up on his F1 dream and go off and do something else instead.

Indeed, Motorsport.com sources have confirmed that he did come close to doing so after holding informal talks with Bryan Herta Autosport about racing in IndyCar in 2016.

But now, with Pastor Maldonado's sponsors PDVSA having just hours to resolve a sponsorship payment issue or risk seeing their man dropped, Magnussen stands on the verge of an F1 comeback.

And it is one that many fans would welcome. For it would deliver some poetic justice after the run of bad luck he has had, plus all that has happened may well make him return an even stronger driver.

Another chance

Despite F1 having been so cruel to him, at the back of Magnussen's mind there always remained this view of unfinished business: and many in the sport who believed that the youngster had not been able to show his true potential so far.

For it was not just the debut podium that Magnussen earned at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix (still McLaren's most recent best result) that has stood him out: because there was no shortage of speed over the remainder of that campaign even if the end results (and especially points) were not as good as his teammate's.

And while there were very good reasons for McLaren to take Button instead for 2015, what was perhaps a trifle unfair was that in doing so it left Magnussen up to now on the brink of F1 exile.

F1 underdog

It is a tough situation that Magnussen has found himself in, but the heartbreak, frustrations and the belief he has not shown his ultimate potential in F1 have perhaps helped the Dane secure a place in the spotlight.

We all love an underdog, and it would be something of a good story to see Magnussen bounce back from his disappointments and bashings to resurrect his F1 career.

Renault too would love to take on the story of the man who shot to F1's attention in the final stepping-stone of Formula Renault 3.5 - and did not crack under the pressure of that infamous Paul Ricard technical disqualification in 2013.

As Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul recognised last year about the value to his company of bringing on youngsters: "We got more return being identified as the one who identified [Fernando] Alonso, than the first one who allowed Lewis Hamilton to get behind the wheel of a single seater [in Formula Renault].

"If you were to question everyone in the paddock, even those who know very well Lewis' career, Fernando is definitely connected to Renault. Lewis has never been connected to Renault.

"So we need to build on that, and that is why I am a big believer in a young driver programme."

Magnussen fits that bill perfectly.

Second chance

If Magnussen does get the Renault F1 seat - with a final decision due imminently – then he knows it is an opportunity that he must not allow to slip through his fingers.

It is quite rare for F1 drivers to get second chances, so it says much about the faith that Renault management have in his abilities that it is set on him if the Maldonado deal does ultimately collapse.

For F1 too, it is always good to have a new wave of determined youngsters: especially one with the character and determination of Magnussen.

As he told Motorsport.com last year after being dropped by McLaren, there remains only one thing he is focused on.

"My ambitions haven't changed," he said. "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."

There could well be some exciting times on the horizon then - both for F1 and him - depending on what does or does not arrive from Venezuela this week.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Kevin Magnussen
Article type Commentary