Saturday, August 8, 2020
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Watch out for more of Magnussen’s exploits

It’s a shame that the bitter upsets and disputes in the aftermath of the eventful season-opening Australian Grand Prix sadly overshadowed a success story that is set to run and run.

The amazing exploits of raw rookie Kevin Magnussen in scoring second place in his first ever Formula One race was an accomplishment of towering talent. And, remember, he is only 21.

His performance has been universally hailed as one of the finest debuts in the history of Grand Prix racing. Rightly so. Not only that, the modest demeanour shown by the inexperienced youngster, who suddenly made good in the toughest of environments, was every bit as pleasurable as the result in itself.

Little wonder his mentor at McLaren, Eric Boullier, incoming from Lotus this season, failed to disguise his absolute delight at Magnussen’s runners-up spot, albeit after being promoted from third place on the disqualification of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for a mess of their own making.

It is a little early, of course, to be sure, but the forecast has to be that this improbably youthful, almost schoolboyish, figure could develop into a presence as formidable as multi-champion Sebastian Vettel.

The countenance gives nothing away on that notion, the smile is readily genuine and not remotely a reflection of conceit or arrogance, and the likeability factor, reflecting honest disbelief at his own success, is a welcome attitude.

It was something of surprise when McLaren promoted him from the ranks of the test drivers to partner former champion Jenson Button in place of the more experienced Sergio Perez — but it was clearly a wise move.

He became the first rookie since Lewis Hamilton in 2007 that McLaren, now back under the control of star finder Ron Dennis, had taken on. And his runners-up spectacular eclipsed Hamilton’s third place in his debut in Australia seven years ago.

The babyfaced Dane gushed: “I have been dreaming about this moment my whole life. The start was scary and I nearly lost it. But the car was fantastic throughout the race.

“Where to do we go from here ? I am sure we will continue to improve — and I’ll be learning as much as possible. One thing is sure : I’ll be pushing as hard as I can.”

Button, the oldest driver in F1, said of his partner, the second youngest: “What a superb show from Kevin in Melbourne — and there’s more to come from him. Much more.”

Frenchman Boullier enthused: “Kevin’s drive was one of the greatest performances by an F1 rookie in living memory. Despite his youth and inexperience he drove like a man who had already notched up 100 grands prix. He was faultless. And he is ready for any challenge.”

His follow-up challenge looms in Malaysia next week. And, like him, I can’t wait to see if can go even one better!

— The author is an expert on motorsport based in the UK