McLaren principal thinks “risk” with Magnussen will lead to big rewards

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McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh recognizes the uncertainty that comes with his team bringing up newcomer Kevin Magnussen (pictured) to the ranks of Formula One. But he believes that he’s seen enough from the Formula Renault 3.5 champion to know he’ll be able to handle it all.

In an interview with Britain’s The Independent, Whitmarsh details several moments where Magnussen impressed him along his path to F1 from his FR3.5 title to his strong Young Driver’s Test at Silverstone this past July where he led the first day of the session.

“What was impressive was the consistency – there was not a single mistake,” Whitmarsh said of the Silverstone session to Independent writer Ian Parkes. “I also happened to participate in the engineering debrief at the end of the day and he had a number of engineers around him and at least 20 on video conference.

“I sat there listening to his feedback, how clear and precise he was, the confidence, and realizing ‘This guy is special’.”

Magnussen will have to be special in order to have his rookie season stack up admirably against that of the last McLaren rookie in Formula One – Lewis Hamilton, who narrowly lost out on the 2007 World Championship in his first year of F1.

To the young man’s credit, however, he appears to be fully immersing himself in his preparations to team up and face off against former World Champ Jenson Button – who has warned his new teammate about the “big pressure” that comes with entering F1 as part of one of its most important teams.

Considering that McLaren just suffered through its first season without a podium finish in over three decades, there will indeed be high expectations for the son of former F1 and current sports car racer Jan Magnussen to adapt quickly and help get the Woking team back on track.

That said, Whitmarsh has faith.

“…There’s a risk, but we wouldn’t be doing it unless we didn’t think it would work out,” he said.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.