10 March 2015
F1 Australian Grand Prix: Magnussen ‘up for Melbourne challenge’
McLaren stand-in Kevin Magnussen says he is as well-prepared as ever ahead of his unexpected return to an F1 race seat at the Australian Grand prix.
Kevin Magnussen has vowed to make the most of his unexpected opportunity to race in this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, even if he doesn't expect to repeat his blistering F1 debut of a year ago.
The 2014 Melbourne race saw the Dane, then a rookie of course, come home third on the road, and subsequently be promoted to second spot by Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification, putting him among rare company as a driver to claim a podium finish on his F1 debut.
This time around, however, things are a little different for Magnussen, who found himself on the outside looking in until Fernando Alonso's testing accident in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. Magnussen had been the odd man out in a three-into-two situation at Woking, losing his seat to double world champion Alonso for 2015, but now gets an early opportunity to remind his employers of his ability.
“I'm really pleased to be behind the wheel with McLaren-Honda at Melbourne again,” the 22-year old admitted, “Of course, the reason I am here is an unusual one, but my job is to do the best job I can for the team while Fernando is out of the cockpit, and that's what I'll do.
“Although I didn't expect to be sitting in the cockpit in Australia, I've spent the winter preparing as I would normally for a race season, so I feel fit and ready for the task ahead of me and to do the best I can for the team. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to get more mileage under my belt in the MP4-30, and this will in turn benefit the team over the coming months as I work with them back in Woking.”
McLaren has struggled for mileage on its reunion with engine partner Honda, and goes to Australia with limited expectations – although the same could have been said ahead of last year's race – but Magnussen aims to make the most of the chance to join Jenson Button in the line-up, even if it is likely to be for just one weekend.
“To be back in Melbourne is a fantastic feeling, especially as those memories of my podium here last year are incredibly special and something I'll never forget,” he confirmed, “I loved racing on this circuit last year and I'm really looking forward to getting back out on track in Friday practice to continue the development of our car.
“Of course, we aren't expecting to win here, but my focus is on setting up the car for race conditions and pushing our progress forward. Although we had some challenges in Barcelona, overall the MP4-30 felt very positive and certainly different from last year's car, in a good way. I'll be working hard with my engineers to give them as much valuable feedback as possible so that they can keep developing the car and improving our performance and reliability.”
McLaren's best hope may come from early season teething troubles hitting its rivals although, with a year of the latest regulations now in the books, frailties are fewer than in 2014. Mercedes appears to, once again, be the team to beat, with McLaren also having to overcome the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams before it can even begin to dream of repeating the 2-3 result it achieved last year.
“The racing is sure to be unpredictable here at the start of the new season, and it'll be really interesting to find out where we compare to the rest of the grid,” Magnussen concluded, “I'm definitely up for the challenge.”
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