McLaren has gone for a lineup of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for 2015, which produces the oldest lineup on the grid at a combined age of 67 (Alonso 33, Button 34 at the moment).
By contrast, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s combined lineup, aged 37, is only barely older than Button. Carlos Sainz is 20 and Max Verstappen is 17; both will be rookies in the 2015 Formula One season.
With that as an introduction, it brings us to McLaren’s own pair of youngsters – 2014 reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne and now, 2015 reserve and test driver Kevin Magnussen – and brings the question of what comes next for them.
Both the Belgian and a Dane face something of an uncertain F1 future, at least for 2015, with the Alonso/Button confirmation.
Magnussen being demoted is a rarity in modern F1, although it has worked out well for some drivers in the past.
Note Alonso began as a rookie with Minardi in 2001, took a year as Renault test driver in 2002 before replacing, ironically, Button in the team the following season when Button went to BAR-Honda. Felipe Massa took a similar path, racing with Sauber in 2002 and 2004 with a year as Ferrari test driver in-between in 2003.
But generally speaking, with testing days reduced in the current era of F1, you only get less than a couple weeks of running a year, at best. Other work is done via a simulator.
Magnussen can’t be thrilled at the demotion, and although he was named in the release in his new role and in the official picture, no quotes from him were issued.
Vandoorne, the GP2 star who finished second as a rookie this season and had potential to fit into McLaren’s future, was left off the release entirely. That’s a bit surprising considering he was the one tasked with running the interim McLaren MP4-29X1/H1 Honda chassis at Abu Dhabi last month, for its first official running.
While McLaren racing director Eric Boullier hinted at Abu Dhabi a second season of GP2 was likely for Vandoorne, Magnussen doesn’t have – nor would he want – that option.
As reserve, Magnussen could potentially race in another championship next season. Red Bull’s Sebastien Buemi undertook that option this year; he has driven to a World Championship in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota.
In choosing experience, McLaren has two steady, dependable, reliable points scorers who are World Champions and should be good with engine development. But it does leave the question of the future beyond 2015 somewhat unsorted.
Either Magnussen or Vandoorne would be a reasonable prospect for McLaren’s future, and depending on whether Button stays beyond 2015, which is expected, the next question turns to whether either would be in line for a 2016 race seat.
Still, it’s difficult to find a road back to an F1 seat once you’ve been removed from one. Sergio Perez, dropped by McLaren this time last year, got lucky with another chance at Force India.
You hope this isn’t the end of the road for Magnussen, and you hope Vandoorne’s future still includes a shot. For now, Kevin’s still fighting, as he wrote on Twitter on Thursday.