Although the calendar shows this year is 2014, there are semblances of 1995 and 1996 very much evident this weekend in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Consider Kevin Magnussen is only the second rookie to debut for McLaren since 1995, when his father Jan did so in a one-off substitute role in the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix at the Aida Circuit in Japan.
The other rookie was Lewis Hamilton, who came third on debut in 2007 at the Australian Grand Prix.
The younger Magnussen, 21, finished third on the road Sunday to match Hamilton’s debut result, one he was over the moon with.
But come late Sunday night, when Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from second place for falling afoul of the series’ new fuel flow regulations, that promoted Magnussen to second, before Red Bull appealed the DQ.
For McLaren’s new recruit, that’s the best result for a Grand Prix driver on debut since Jacques Villeneuve came second for Williams in the first Australian GP held at Melbourne in 1996.
Villeneuve, coincidentally, is the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and CART series champion – the same year the senior Magnussen made his F1 debut – and will race once again in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to bring things full circle.
Now, all it would take to add to the “what’s real in 2014 was also real in the ’90s” theme involving Villeneuve and a Magnussen would be Jan Magnussen returning to IndyCar for the first time since 1999.
But it was in 1996, the year Villeneuve left for F1 that Magnussen made his CART series debut in a fill-in role for Team Penske, on recommendation from Mercedes’ Norbert Haug. He substituted first for an injured Paul Tracy, then an injured Emerson Fittipaldi in the series’ final four races.
Adding to the coincidences, Jan Magnussen’s McLaren F1 chassis in 1995 marked the first year of the Mobil 1 and McLaren relationship. It’s a partnership that has extended 20 years into 2014, where Kevin Magnussen has now taken the Mobil 1-backed McLaren MP4-29 Mercedes to this record result.
Mercedes hasn’t had a role yet in this story in terms of coincidences, but it too plays a part. The 1995 season marked the first McLaren season with Mercedes power; 2014 will mark its last in another 20-year partnership, before it returns to Honda in 2015.
I’m going to go ahead and dub this odd string of coincidences “Magnussception.” Because this is kind of weird, yet kind of cool at the same time.