Mag­nussen and Wehrlein will join the 2016 F1 grid

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

For­mer Mclaren racer Kevin Mag­nussen is to re­turn to F1 with Re­nault af­ter the team dropped Pas­tor Mal­don­ado. Mag­nussen was drafted in when Mal­don­ado's spon­sor­ship money dried up due to an eco­nomic cri­sis in his home coun­try of Venezuela, fol­low­ing a drop in global oil prices.

Mal­don­ado was con­tracted to pay $46m, all up front. The team gave spon­sor PDVSA, Venezuela’s na­tional oil com­pany, sev­eral chances to pay but fi­nally re­sorted to sign­ing Mag­nussen at the end of Jan­uary.

Mag­nussen, who was re­leased by Mclaren at the end of 2015 fol­low­ing a year as their re­serve driver, ad­mit­ted that Re­nault had saved his ca­reer. “This was make or break,” he said. “Luck­ily, I made it. This is a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity be­cause not many driv­ers get a se­cond chance. I can’t tell you how happy I am.”

Mag­nussen, 23, had orig­i­nally been promised a se­cond sea­son at Mclaren, along­side Fer­nando Alonso in 2015, only for board-level pol­i­tics, to swing the de­ci­sion back in Jen­son But­ton’s favour. Mag­nussen will part­ner Jolyon Palmer,

Ger­man Pas­cal Wehrlein (left) and In­done­sian Rio Haryanto (right) have been con­firmed as Manor's new driver pair­ing for the 2016 sea­son The 2016 Re­nault line-up, from right to left: rac­ers Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Mag­nussen and re­serve driver Este­ban Ocon who de­fended Mal­don­ado while also mak­ing it clear he pre­ferred Mag­nussen along­side him.

“He’s not a bad driver,” Palmer said of Mal­don­ado. “He won GP2 and he won a grand prix, re­mem­ber. Last sea­son he ran Ro­main Gros­jean close. It was just that he made mis­takes at im­por­tant mo­ments. But I think Kevin will present a stronger, more con­sis­tent chal­lenge. He and Jen­son were very even at Mclaren.”

Mean­while, Mercedes pro­tégé and DTM cham­pion Pas­cal Wehrlein, 21, will make his F1 de­but for Manor this sea­son, hav­ing signed a one-year deal. In­done­sian GP2 racer Rio Haryanto, who is said to have se­cured £10m in back­ing from the In­done­sian govern­ment, beat the team’s 2015 driv­ers Alexan­der Rossi and Will Stevens to the re­main­ing seat.

Manor are cur­rently un­der­go­ing a ma­jor re­struc­ture. In ad­di­tion to the Mercedes en­gine deal and a tech­ni­cal part­ner­ship with Wil­liams in which Manor buy in the car’s rear end, there have been var­i­ous staff changes over the win­ter. Hav­ing re­cruited for­mer Mclaren sport­ing di­rec­tor Dave Ryan to run the team at the track, Manor have now signed up two of his for­mer col­leagues: Pat Fry as a con­sul­tant, and Niko­las Tom­bazis as chief aero­dy­nam­i­cist.

Mclaren refugee Kevin Mag­nussen finds a home at Re­nault, while Mercedes place re­serve driver Pas­cal Wehrlein with Manor

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