Magnussen debut runner-up brings a few F1 things full circle

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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.

Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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