Kevin Magnussen has confirmed recent stories suggesting that former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button was on the verge of retirement in 2014, claiming that he had been told the second seat at the Woking team was his for last season.
Speaking to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet
, Magnussen admitted to being disappointed by McLaren's decision to reach a contract extension with Button after it appeared that 2009 world champion was on the verge of ending his F1 career, but also conceded that his final outings in 2014 had not necessarily been the best advert for his own abilities as McLaren pondered the best choice of team-mate to Fernando Alonso.
“I was told that it was my seat,” the Dane insisted, “I cannot remember it exactly but, at the end of the season, I was told that I did not need to worry.”
Although the 2014 season was not as bad as the most recent campaign for McLaren, it was hard for both Button and Magnussen to make an impact on the top three, leading the Woking giant to pursue a reunion with Alonso for 2015. The identity of the Spaniard's team-mate went all the way to the wire before Button was confirmed, the Briton having been pictured in an emotional conversation with team boss Ron Dennis following the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Ironically, Magnussen made one final McLaren appearance as substitute for the injured Alonso in the Australian Grand Prix, but the Dane ended 2015 by splitting with the team in order to explore other opportunities.
“Of course it was hard to get to know that I did not get the seat, but I did not doubt that I would come back, so it was not as big a problem as one might have thought,” Magnussen continued, “But it was hard to begin with the launch, where I had just been told. Then you stand there as a test driver, while Jenson stands with Fernando. It took a while before it sank in and the reality dawned on me.”
The Dane, FRenault 3.5 champion in 2013, confessed that, while Button was putting together a strong end to 2014, his own performances may not have been the most convincing for a young driver trying to prolong his F1 career.
“If I could go back and do it all again, I would do some things differently in the last two races,” the 23-year old confirmed, “They were the only two bad races I ran, and it's just a pity that they were the last two, but I was very much under pressure.
“I took some stupid choices with the set-up and strategy, which meant that I lost a lot. I bet with the set-up because I really wanted to beat him, but I went too much compromise on my car for the race, I got a bad start, slipped a lot on the tyres and, in Abu Dhabi, I panicked because now I had [fallen] too far back. I pushed too much so, in the middle of the stint, I had destroyed my tyres and had to pit too early.
“It was a domino effect when one is under pressure - if you have make a bad choice, it's really easy in an F1 car to get into a really bad run. Jenson had his two best races at the end. He ran really well – but he had a helmet ready that said goodbye. He had thrown in the towel and just ran with his heart. He drove to have fun and enjoy the last two races as he believed 100 per cent that he was done in F1. He drove without stress or pressure...”