F1: McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen must grasp his chance as team principal Martin Whitmarsh admits they are taking a 'risk' with 'special driver'

Magnussen steps up to McLaren after winning the Formula Renault 3.5 series last season in which he impressed many with his mature approach

It is rare in Formula One these days for a rookie to be handed his debut with one of the sport's leading teams.

But for the second time in eight seasons McLaren have opted to take that route, as they did in 2007 with a certain Lewis Hamilton.

It is perhaps expecting too much of Kevin Magnussen to have the same impact Hamilton did that remarkable campaign.

The now 28-year-old stepped on to the podium in his first nine races, winning four of the 17 overall, only to miss out on the world title by a solitary point and in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Magnussen, however, has so far made waves and impressed, to such an extent team principal Martin Whitmarsh opted to axe Sergio Perez at the end of last season and promote his Danish development driver.

It was at the young driver test in Abu Dhabi in November 2012 that the 21-year-old raised the eyebrows of all within McLaren.

In a Formula One car for the first time, and on only his third flying lap, Magnussen set a time that would have been good enough for sixth on the grid in the race the weekend before.

Whitmarsh described Magnussen's performance that day as "pretty bloody impressive", adding "he is bloody quick".

For the 2013 season, Magnussen's second in Formula Renault 3.5 Series, he was urged by Whitmarsh to prove he had what it takes by claiming the title. Magnussen did exactly that, and comfortably so by 60 points ahead of another rising star on McLaren's books, Stoffel Vandoorne.

Although he won the final three races, claimed five victories overall and stood on the podium in nine of the other 12 events, it was what Magnussen did in the opening moments of the first race that stood out for Whitmarsh.

"He put his car on pole and had Antonio Felix Da Costa alongside him," recalled Whitmarsh.

"At the start Da Costa outbraked himself into the first corner. The Kevin of old wouldn't have seen it and ... bump!

"But Kevin saw him and let him through, which went against all his instincts.

"I rang him immediately after the race and said 'Kevin, that is the most impressive thing I've ever seen you do'.

"Knowing he was lightning quick, he then had to learn how to win a championship, and that is what he did. He just impressed everyone through this year."

Magnussen added to that impression at another test at Silverstone in July, emerging quickest at the end of the first day after completing 110 laps.

"What was impressive was the consistency - there was not a single mistake," added Whitmarsh.

"I also happened to participate in the engineering debrief at the end of the day and he had a number of engineers around him and at least 20 on video conference.

"I sat there listening to his feedback, how clear and precise he was, the confidence, and realising 'This guy is special'."

Just how special remains to be seen, especially as many are likely to compare him to father Jan initially, and then Hamilton.

Jan also had the speed and talent, although not perhaps the application because after he, too, was taken on and nurtured by McLaren in the 1990s, his career failed to take off as expected.

After a promising debut in the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix as replacement for an ill Mika Hakkinen, rather than waiting for a permanent chance at McLaren, Jan opted to join the newly-formed Stewart Grand Prix in 1997.

There were flashes of brilliance, but not enough to convince owner Sir Jackie Stewart that Magnussen had a long-term future, and after just one and a half seasons the now 40-year-old was given the boot.

Kevin should hopefully progress further than his father, but as for following in Hamilton's shoes and becoming a world champion, that is another thing.

Whitmarsh is aware he is throwing Magnussen in at the deep end, but has no qualms he will swim rather than sink.

"We did it with Lewis, but how many times in your career does that happen because we could have had egg on our face," said Whitmarsh.

"The one thing I'll say - and I hesitate to say this thinking about it, but I'll say it - it was easier for Lewis because we pounded him with testing in a way you can't any more.

"So there's a risk, but we wouldn't be doing it unless we didn't think it would work out."


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London