In a move that might appear to be surprising, McLaren F1 team has chosen to replace Sergio Perez with complete newcomer Kevin Magnussen for the 2014 season. It may seem to be a surprise on the face of it but if you look deeper you just might not find this such a great surprise after all. McLaren which is a quintessential British team has always had problems adjusting to Latino drivers, with the exception of Ayrton Senna. The time that Fernando Alonso was at McLaren was full of tension between the driver and team and when it became unbearable the contract was broken and Alonso was allowed to go scotfree.
Last year when McLaren signed Sergio Perez from Sauber many eye brows were raised for two reasons. The first was that people were not convinced that Perez had done enough to get into a blue chip team like McLaren. The second pertained to the team’s ability to deal with a driver who was likely to be more tempestuous than be stiff upper lipped. This season has proved the doubters right. Perez fell short of expectations by a pretty big margin and also did not enjoy the greatest of relations with fellow McLaren driven Jenson Button. During races it was common to hear Button asking the team to calm Perez down when he was driving aggressively and trying to overtake Button from impossible angles.
The decision to replace him with Kevin Magnussen who has come straight out of Formula 3.5 may look to be a bit of surprise but it actually is not. Kevin’s father Jan Magnussen, just like Kevin Magnussen, was a product of the McLaren young driver programme. Jan Magnussen did not get a drive soon enough in F1 and when he finally go it, the team was in severe doldrums and he more often than not ended up in 20th position in qualifying and in the races. The situation is similar again at McLaren. It is coming off a season that is bitterly disappointing and Kevin Magnussen is the ideal gamble for McLaren who will be using Mercedes engines for the last time in 2014 before shifting to Honda power in 2015.
Kevin Magnussen’s being blooded in at this time means that if he delivers the team will be happy. If he takes after his father and falters, the team will then look for another and more accomplished driver for 2015. Kevin Magnussen’s future rests on two things; McLaren’s ability to deliver a race winning car and his own ability to drive a car that may or may not be a winner. It does appear that Kevin Magnussen has been chosen as a sacrificial lamb, but then if he has in him what it takes to succeed he may yet change his fortune.
Meanwhile Sergio Perez seems to have been left high and dry by McLaren’s end of the season decision with very few prospects of a drive for 2014. A forced sabbatical is probably what will be the result of this for Perez unless of course he is looking at racing in some other series in his neighbouring United States of America.