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.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.