Magnussen and Wehrlein will join the 2016 F1 grid
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