F1 rookie Kevin Magnussen admits that the final eight races of the 2014 season carry extra resonance for the McLaren team as it continues to chase the sport's new frontrunners.
Once a powerhouse – as 14 wins at this weekend's destination, Belgium, can attest – McLaren has fallen off the pace in recent seasons, and currently lies only sixth in the constructors' standings, behind the likes of Force India and fellow fallen giant Williams.
After a surprisingly successful start to the 2014 campaign, which yielded a double podium in Melbourne, the Woking team has yet to return to the top three, with Jenson Button's brace of fourth places from Canada and Britain the closest it has managed in a season pock-marked with frustration. Now the series returns from its break in Belgium, at a venue beloved by drivers but requiring a three-fold pre-requisite comprising commitment by the driver, an aerodynamically efficient car, and a powerful engine.
Despite the summer shutdown preventing much physical work from taking place, the minds at McLaren have continued to bring developments to the MP4-29, the first of which will be seen at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend. While racing director Eric Boullier admits that the true value of the parts may not be known until after the European season has concluded [ see separate story
], Magnussen admits that the team needs to continue making progress between now and Abu Dhabi with an eye on being competitive in 2015.
“I think the second half of this season will be incredibly important for us,” the Dane insisted, “We need to use these next eight races to assert ourselves, pushing our development strategy to the fore in order to first consolidate and then improve our positions in both the drivers' and constructors' championships. As a team, I know we are up for the challenge.”
Like team-mate Button, Magnussen has tasted success at Spa, winning in each of the last two categories he contested before joining the 2009 world champion in the top flight, and he is looking forward to getting back on track after the summer hiatus.
“It's felt like an incredibly long four weeks, and I really can't wait to get back into the cockpit, particularly as we're headed to Spa, one of the best drivers' tracks in the world,” he enthused.
“I love Spa! I won there in British F3 in 2011, and in Formula Renault 3.5 in both 2012 and '13, and I just love the fast, flowing nature of the circuit. Hooking up a quick lap there during qualifying is just fantastic, because the track just flows from one corner to the next, and the car is so fast and assured that it almost feels effortless. It's fantastic!”