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.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.