New Renault driver Kevin Magnussen believes the year he spent on the sidelines after losing his McLaren race seat has made him extra hungry to succeed on his return to the Formula One grid this year.
The Dane, who was confirmed as Pastor Maldonado’s replacement alongside Jolyon Palmer last week, scored 55 points and a debut podium in his maiden season of F1 racing in 2014 but was relegated to reserve driver status for 2015 as McLaren drafted in Fernando Alonso to partner Jenson Button.
“I had a season in 2014 with McLaren and I felt it went quite well pitched against a past world champion,” said Magnussen, who was released from the team in October. “To be replaced the following year was tough even if the line-up the team used was very strong. I had been racing every year since I was six so to sit to the side certainly wasn’t part of my plan.”
“Hopefully I’ll prove many points [in 2016]. I’m extremely motivated after a whole year away. I’ve been sitting on the sideline during the races for so many weekends and I’m hungry to come back and prove my worth,” Magnussen added.
Despite not racing since a one-off appearance in place of Alonso at last year’s season-opener in Australia, Magnussen said he does not expect to be at a disadvantage heading into the forthcoming campaign.
“Without racing last year, I actually had more time to train and I feel very fit because of that,” he explained. “I’m physically ready. I’ve not had a lot of time in a race car but the time I had, I felt good. I was always surprised at how quickly I re-adapted to driving after time out of the car. I was pretty much immediately on the pace when I tested the Porsche Le Mans car [in November]and I’ve been on it whenever I’ve been in an F1 car. I’m ready.”
Renault won back-to-back drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006 during their last stint in F1 as a works team, and Magnussen is in no doubt that they can replicate that success in the coming years.
“Renault Sport will be fighting for world championships in the future,” he said unequivocally. “It might have a build-up phase, but they’re here to win and that’s a goal I share. I can’t believe I’m now a part of it.”
Frederic Vasseur, Renault’s newly appointed racing director, said Magnussen’s appointment made perfect sense for the team moving forward.
“Kevin has a good mix of experience and youth,” he explained. “He had a strong race season at McLaren two years ago and showed his ability in the junior categories such as Formula Renault 3.5. He can target winning races and championships as he has the talent.”
“The fact he had a lack of mileage last year will motivate him and he’ll be chomping at the bit to get back into it all. It’s important for us because we all know 2016 won’t be an easy season. We know where we are starting from and we need motivated characters like Kevin to keep pushing hard.” Vasseur said.