5 November 2013
Magnussen in frame at McLaren?
McLaren's ongoing delay in announcing its 2014 F1 pairing is leading to increased suggestions that Kevin Magnussen, and not Sergio Perez, could be partnering Jenson Button.
Despite suggestions in Abu Dhabi that Sergio Perez had inched closer to retaining his seat at McLaren next season, the F1 rumour mill continues to suggest that the Mexican remains in danger from talents already within the Woking set-up.
While the likes of Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso have come and gone as speculated replacements for Perez, Kevin Magnussen – son of former McLaren and Stewart driver Jan – is apparently still under consideration for the seat alongside Jenson Button who, despite official confirmation, is tacitly believed to have inked a contract extension for 2014.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh again hinted that a line-up announcement could be forthcoming 'quite shortly', but round 17 of 19 came and went without any disclosure from the squad, leading to speculation that 21-year old Magnussen, who was due to have taken part in this week's GP2 test at Yas Marina but was withdrawn, could be heading for bigger things.
While Perez's cause – he has apparently been told he needs to be beating Button on a regular basis - has not been helped by the difficult MP4-28 car, there is the lingering thought that he was not the right man to partner the Briton after all, with many having suggested that McLaren should have taken Hulkenberg when it had the chance towards the end of 2012.
Instead, having seen Lewis Hamilton head for Mercedes, it appeared to 'jump the gun' in snatching Perez from under the nose of Ferrari, which had the Mexican on its development programme. While backing from Mexico was naturally attractive to McLaren, some of Hulkenberg's performances in this year's Sauber suggest that he may have been the bigger talent.
Although his fifth place in India equalled the best result achieved by McLaren all season, Perez continues to trail Button in the drivers' championship, as he followed that up with a lowly ninth in Abu Dhabi on Sunday – albeit still three places ahead of his team-mate, who came off worst in a first lap incident for the second race running.
McLaren was rumoured to have pushing Magnussen towards a learning year at Marussia in 2013, but that tactic now appears to have been backtracked in favour of potentially throwing him straight in at the deep end. The team has previous when it comes to risking young talent, having pitted Hamilton against Fernando Alonso in 2007, while other teams up and down the grid have not been averse to the odd unexpected signing, most recently Toro Rosso, which fast-tracked Daniil Kvyat straight from GP3 at the expense of another Red Bull protégé, Antonio Felix da Costa.
Interviewed in India shortly after claiming the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 crown, Magnussen insisted that he felt ready for the big time, particularly with a change of engine specification – amongst other things – helping to reset the field in terms of experience, and with additional testing to aid his personal development through the coming campaign, claims he repeated in Abu Dhabi at the weekend.
“For me, if I can get a competitive seat in the first year, I would prefer that,” he was quoted by Britain's Daily Telegraph, “It's true that there is a bigger risk in going to a top team because, if you don't perform, then you're out of F1 but, for me, if I get to a top team and don't perform then it means I'm not good enough.
“It's no secret that I want to drive for this team. It's the best team in the paddock, [and] it's where I've wanted to race my whole life - even when I was a small kid. I'm in F1 to be world champion, not just to be in F1. That is why I would happily take that chance - I believe I am capable of that.  will be more of a level playing field. No drivers will have experience of driving these cars, [so] it's a very good opportunity for a rookie.”
Another McLaren development project, Renault 3.5 runner-up Stoeffel Vandoorne is expected to continue with his GP2 test this week, and could end up racing in the series in 2014.
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