Kevin Magnussen admitted that finishing third on his F1 debut felt as good as winning as he joined Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo on the podium at the Australian Grand Prix.
The Dane, who graduated from the World Series by Renault to join McLaren over the winter, made the most of a stellar fourth position on the grid, which he claimed in tricky wet conditions on Saturday, to run towards the front throughout the opening round. Although Rosberg checked out and gave no-one a chance of catching him, Magnussen remained within sight of Ricciardo, and even closed on the local favourite towards the end, before settling for the final step of the podium.
Speaking before Ricciardo was excluded from the race for exceeding the maximum fuel flow
, Magnussen admitted his delight at how well his debut had gone.
“I can't believe it - it's not a win, but it definitely feels like a bit of a win!” he smiled, “The team is coming off a difficult season and they really wanted to come back. They've worked so hard over the winter - and working with a rookie hasn't got experience – so it's been tough for them, for sure. But they've done such a good job, made me feel really at home and made me feel comfortable with everything. I couldn't have asked for more.”
Despite reliability being a concern for all eleven teams, McLaren ran largely without a hitch, as Jenson Button backed up his rookie team-mate in fourth spot. Although the Briton's car suffered cosmetic damage during the race, Magnussen reported no problems with his MP4-29, other than having to play with his fuel consumption from time to time.
“No issues with the car that we weren't expecting,” he confirmed, “We didn't really know what to expect but, luckily, we didn't have anything that came up that we couldn't handle.
“I probably saved a bit too much [fuel] in the beginning, which turned out to be alright because then I could give Daniel a little bit of pressure at the end and I didn't have to save fuel so much, which was good. It's something I will certainly learn more about and get into a rhythm with but, again, big congratulations to the team and to Mercedes for providing such a reliable power unit. It's quite impressive in the first year.”
With fuel consumption not an issue, Magnussen conceded that he just couldn't summon up enough performance to bridge the final few tenths to second place.
“I think me and Dan had pretty similar pace but, obviously, you can do stuff with the engine to try and push for a few laps and then you have to back off because you have to harvest the energy again,” he explained, “You're fuel saving as well, stop for a few laps and then you begin again and you have to do more and catch that up. I guess it makes it exciting from the outside because it creates opportunities for overtaking, but it just wasn't enough today. I didn't have enough pace to get past Dan.”
Third and fourth places were enough to propel McLaren into an early, and slim, lead in the constructors' championship, prompting someone to ask Magnussen whether he felt the team had the potential to stay there.
“Who knows?” he replied, “We will certainly try our best. I know the team is massively motivated to stay on top and they are a team that should be at the top of F1, so what can I say? I'll do my best and they will do their best. Who knows?
“I'm happy just to be with McLaren. I think what Mercedes and McLaren have done together is amazing and I'm really looking forward to what's coming ahead.”