Magnussen: Low expectations for one-off McLaren drive

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McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen is heading into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix with low expectations following a difficult winter testing period for the British team.

For 2015, McLaren has reunited with engine supplier Honda, with whom it dominated Formula 1 back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

However, the new partnership has not started entirely as planned, with the team encountering a number of problems with the power unit throughout pre-season.

Magnussen will race in Australia this weekend as a planned one-off for McLaren, deputizing for Fernando Alonso who is still being rested following a testing accident in Barcelona last month.

Despite finishing second in the race last year, the Dane is not expecting a similar result this time around due to the reliability problems that the team has faced.

“I would say quite low,” Magnussen said when asked what his expectations were. “We’re struggling obviously with reliability, making the car run for a long time, but this is a new start for McLaren, a new start in many ways and I think it’s going to take time.

“I think it’s the right direction that the team has chosen to go and I think it has a bright future ahead, but I think it’s going to take time but I’m sure they’ll get there.”

McLaren is yet to confirm whether or not Alonso will be fit to race in the Malaysian Grand Prix at the end of the month. Magnussen confirmed that the Spaniard had wished him the best of luck for this weekend’s race, but is otherwise unaware of his recovery programme.

“I haven’t been in contact with him, only on Twitter he wished me good luck and I said thank you and that’s it,” Magnussen said. “I haven’t asked him how he’s feeling but I hear he’s doing well so yeah, obviously at this race I wish him all the best.

“Can’t really say much more because I don’t know much more. What about Malaysia? You’ll have to wait, I don’t know. I’m not the right person to ask.”

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).