In an interview with the media today, Kevin Magnussen claims that Jenson Button was preparing to retire from F1 in late 2014 and says he had been assured of a seat at McLaren for 2015.
After a mixed rookie campaign in 2014, Magnussen was dropped by McLaren in a drawn out saga which saw them opt for the experience of Button alongside new signing Fernando Alonso. After a year on the sidelines as reserve driver Magnussen was dropped by McLaren earlier this season but he says he had been led to believe a senior drive was his just a year earlier.
In an interview with Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet today, Magnussen explains that he was told he would be driving for McLaren in 2015 as follows:-
‘I was told that it was my seat [for 2015]. That I didn’t need to worry. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was at the end of the season.’
However McLaren’s decision to retain Button was helped by the 2009 world champion’s strong finish to that campaign, which helped the team hold off Force India for fifth in the constructors’ championship. Further on in his interview today, Magnussen thinks Button’s late resurgence came from the mindset he was about to retire. Magnussen added the following:-
‘Jenson had his two best races at the end. He did really well. But he had also hung photos of his entire career in his room. He had a helmet ready to go that said ‘Goodbye’ on it. He was driving only to have fun and enjoy his last two races without stress or pressure, believing 100 percent that he was done in Formula One.’
Button faced similar questions about retiring this year before signing a new deal for 2016, which will see him partner Alonso again. Magnussen finally added in the final stages of his interview that he has nothing but respect for his former team-mate and understands the reasons he lost out on the 2015 drive as follows:-
‘Jenson is one of the best and there’s nothing [negative] between us. We are in the same sport and competing for the same seats. There is full respect. I know why he got the seat and there’s nothing between him and me at all.’
Even though Magnussen was eventually dropped from his reserve driver role at McLaren via an email this October, all you can say is that he deserved another chance in 2015 to build on his performances as a rookie. But even though he did his test driver duties for McLaren this season, the manner is which they have treated him is disgusting and he deserves the utter most respect for the way he has handled the situation in the media.
As for what Magnussen has stated in his interview today, that might have been Button’s plans at that time in 2014. But things are not fixed in Formula One and can change for the good or for the worst which Kevin has found out to his cost. But it is great to see him having the utter most respect for Jenson and is now at peace as to why things have happened to him the way they have and I wish him all the best for his career in whatever he chooses to do.