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F1: Magnussen seatless as 2016 grid takes shape
The Dane has been dropped by McLaren, but can he find a drive in time for next year?
McLaren announced on Friday that they will be parting company with Kevin Magnussen at the end of the season, with the 23-year-old informed of the decision via email on his birthday a fortnight ago. Happy birthday, Kev!
The Woking team said they would “not stand in the way” of Magnussen’s desire to race next year, after it was confirmed that both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button would be staying for 2016.
Belgian GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne will replace Magnussen as McLaren reserve driver.
“Evidently, we have no space for him at McLaren-Honda as a race driver next year, but there is no shame in being edged out by two world champions,” said Ron Dennis in a statement on McLaren’s website.
“We wish Kevin well, and we will do all we can to help him successfully embark on the next chapter of his racing career.”
We have no space for him at McLaren-Honda as a race driver
Where that will be remains unclear, with few F1 seats available now that six teams have established their line-ups for the forthcoming year. McLaren joined Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Force India and Sauber by confirming their driving partnership last month, with Red Bull and Toro Rosso likely to maintain their current pairings should they opt to stay in the sport.
That leaves Magnussen – who says he has had “good talks with a number of Formula One teams” – with potential drives at Lotus, Manor and debutants Haas.
“I was put on Earth to race, so I’ll race,” said the Dane. “I’m pleased to say that a number of exciting opportunities have come my way over the past few days and weeks, and I can tell you for sure that I’ll take one of those opportunities, definitely.”
Although Jenson Button comprehensively outscored Magnussen in 2014, the rookie displayed plenty of the potential he’d shown in winning the Formula Renault 3.5 championship the year before.
Magnussen’s second-place finish at the opening grand prix in Melbourne last year was McLaren’s best result of the season, and it was backed up by 11 top ten finishes in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Woking team.
Whether or not that will be enough to put him in the frame elsewhere remains to be seen. Manor will in all likelihood need pay drivers to support their financial model, while Ferrari reportedly want test driver Esteban Gutierrez to join Romain Grosjean at Haas as part of their technical relationship with new US entrants Haas.
That leaves the vacant seat alongside Pastor Maldonado at Lotus, with the Venezuelan declaring he would “prefer someone with experience” as his teammate next year.
I was put on Earth to race… A number of exciting opportunities have come my way
Unless Magnussen can beat rumoured rivals Jolyon Palmer and John-Eric Vergne to the seat, he may be forced to pursue other options instead.
Failing that, the Dane’s only hope of remaining in F1 would depend on Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz pulling his two teams out of the sport. This would likely trigger calls for ‘third cars’ to bolster the grid, which could theoretically lead to a demand for available drivers over the winter.
Magnussen, who says his ambition to become world champion hasn’t changed, may have to play the waiting game.
The 2016 grid as it stands:
Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg
Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen
Williams - Valtteri Bottas & Felipe Massa
Red Bull - Daniel Ricciardo & TBC
Force India - Nico Hulkenberg & Sergio Perez
Lotus - Pastor Maldonado & TBC
Toro Rosso - TBC & TBC
Sauber - Felipe Nasr & Marcus Ericsson
McLaren - Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button
Manor - TBC & TBC
Haas - Romain Grosjean & TBC