Kevin Magnussen has high expectations for his former Formula Renault 3.5 title rival Stoffel Vandoorne as last year's GP2 Series champion prepares to make his much anticipated F1 debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Injuries for Fernando Alonso in the wake of his monster accident in Australia have forced him to withdraw from the second round in Bahrain, opening the door for highly rated reserve driver Vandoorne to receive a late call up to compete this weekend.
It comes months after Magnussen, now racing for Renault, was essentially replaced by Vandoorne as McLaren's test and reserve driver for 2016, though the pair worked alongside each other behind the scenes with the team for much off 2015.
Also former rivals on track when second-year Magnussen defeated the then-rookie Belgian to the 2013 FR3.5 title, the Dane goes as far as suggesting Vandoorne can cause trouble for 2009 title winning team-mate Button even though he has yet to drive the MP4-31.
“I think he can [be at Jenson's level]. “McLaren has a really good simulator. My first race was quite good [podium on debut], so I don't think it's a massive problem really. He is good enough to be in Formula 1 so he will have a good race I'm sure.
“I had maybe 20 laps in Barcelona [in the 2015 MP4-30] then to Australia with a car that I hadn't really worked on or been involved with. It's still pretty straightforward. Maybe with the radio ban now there might be some more he has to remember, or get on top of, but in terms of driving the car, doing the race and being fast, I'm sure it will be no problem for him.
Indeed, Magnussen says he hopes Vandoorne can enjoy his debut if it turns out to be the only F1 race he competes in this year.
“I know he deserves to be here so I'm happy to see he got a shot. It can be frustrating knowing you have to give the car back, whether it will be 1 race or 2 races I don't know. You feel a bit awkward because you can't really look forward.
“You just have to do your best in the time being. It's a massive opportunity for anyone to get a chance in Formula 1, it's really, really big. Not many people get a chance, so I hope he can enjoy it.”
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