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

Leave a comment

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.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.