Magnussen stars on debut to qualify fourth

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Kevin Magnussen has immediately thrust himself into the Formula 1 spotlight with a sparkling performance during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix to secure fourth place on the grid.

The Dane, who is just the third rookie to make his debut for McLaren after Alain Prost and Lewis Hamilton, managed to keep his cool in the wet conditions and produce a fine lap in Q3 to qualify fourth. Having finished in second place in Q1 and easily made it through Q2, Magnussen showed experience far beyond his 21 years, although he did admit to making a mistake on his final lap.

“Those were difficult conditions, especially as I’ve never driven this track in the wet,” he explained. “It was quite tricky to get the lines and the braking points right. It was much trickier than anything I’ve done before!

“But I don’t think I could have asked for any more today. I made a mistake and went off on my last lap, so I might have been able to go quicker, but I’m still happy. I’m proud of myself, but also proud of the whole team for doing such a massively good job of preparing me over the winter.”

However, Magnussen refused to get ahead of himself, knowing that the true challenge will come tomorrow in his maiden grand prix outing.

“The race is tomorrow and so are the points, so we need a good Sunday,” the Dane said. “I’ll try to enjoy tomorrow and do the best I can.”

Magnussen soundly outqualified veteran teammate Jenson Button, who failed to make it through to Q3 and will start the race from 10th place tomorrow (taking into account Valtteri Bottas’ grid drop). However, the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion must now finish the job and look to pick up a good haul of points on his Formula 1 debut tomorrow.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.