17 March 2014
Australian Grand Prix: Boullier praises ‘brilliant’ Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen's F1 debut in Australia caught the eye, none more so than that of McLaren's racing director Eric Boullier.
After a year without a podium to its name, McLaren bounced back in the 2014 season-opener, initially getting one car into the top three and, long after the race had finished, finding that it was taking home two pieces of silverware.
Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from second place allowed Jenson Button the satisfaction of taking another top three finish from the Australian Grand Prix, this one perhaps more emotional than most following the recent passing of his father, but it was team-mate Kevin Magnussen who stole the show in Melbourne, chasing Ricciardo to the line.
The Dane, making his F1 debut after graduating to the McLaren line-up as reigning World Series by Renault champion, made those unaware of his pedigree sit up and take notice by putting his MP4-29 onto the outside of row two in a tricky qualifying session, before shrugging off a hair-raising start to settle into a top three race position for the rest of the afternoon.
Even before it had been confirmed that third place would become second, new McLaren racing director Eric Boullier was effusive in his praise of the youngster.
“[His weekend] was brilliant,” the Frenchman noted, “For a young kid like him, he handles the pressure brilliantly. He drove superbly, he behaved with a maturity that is amazing for a young kid of 21 in his first F1 race ever. He didn't put a foot wrong, so we're very impressed.”
Boullier even dismissed the start of the race, which saw Magnussen slew across the bows of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari before getting everything sufficiently gathered up to go on and challenge Lewis Hamilton for third place.
“I think the tyres were very cold, so I think it was just wheelspin,” Boullier confirmed.
Magnussen's pursuit of Ricciardo eventually took the McLaren right onto the tail of the local favourite, but there appeared to be something lacking when it came to the final push. With mechanical unreliability, fuel saving and a more complex regenerative energy system all being talking points ahead of the race, however, there were clearly good reasons for the pass not coming to pass.
“In the first race, you want to be a little bit conservative with the fuel,” Boullier explained, “You don't want to give your figures to the FIA and have used more than 100kg.”
Explaining that telling Magnussen that he could use the 'overtake button' in his pursuit meant that the youngster could briefly reset all the controls on fuel, tyres and energy systems in order to get maximum effect from them, Boullier pointed out that it was never going to be practical to run 'flat out' in the new era of F1.
“All the time, you are saving something - the energy, the fuel, the tyres – so, when you press the button, it resets everything,” he confirmed, “There is not any 'fuel saving' as such - it is not like there is a button that you can switch off. Your energy management is helping fuel saving, so it's more complicated, more complex. To give him a couple of laps on full power, with all the energy on board, we had to slow down for two laps to recharge the battery faster...
“[Fuel] is always on the limit - if we didn't have safety car laps or the second formation lap, we would just have saved more fuel [during the race]. That's it.”
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