McLaren protégé Kevin Magnussen has firmed as a favourite to replace the underperforming Sergio Pérez at the Woking team next year, according to a report in AUTOSPORT.
The Dane – son of sports car veteran and one-time 1990s McLaren driver Jan Magnussen – has edged ahead of Pérez after the Mexican delivered another lacklustre performance last time out at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The team had made it clear that any decision to re-sign Pérez would be on the back of him delivering more consistent performances, and team leaders made it clear their displeasure with his pace during the race at Yas Marina, where he finished ninth – only twelve seconds ahead of teammate Jenson Button, whose race was hampered by having to pit for a new front wing on the opening lap.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh went as far as describing Pérez’s weekend as “disappointing”, while going on to deliberately praise Button, despite his troubled race.
While the team is yet to publically announce any decision on its 2014 driver line-up, there is now a strong push for Pérez to be replaced by Magnussen, who has been part of McLaren’s driver development scheme for a number of years, landing his first F1 test outing in 2012 at the end-of-season ‘Young Drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi, where he was quickest.
“He has had two runs in an F1 car [and] in Abu Dhabi, on his third flying lap, he did a time that was good enough for sixth on the grid, which is pretty impressive,” Whitmarsh said only last month, following Magnussen’s run to clinch the 2013 World Series by Renault Championship title.
Last month, rumours were circulating that McLaren would use the clout of its technical support of Marussia to shoehorn the 21-year-old into the team’s second seat (replacing Max Chilton) in order to give him a year’s experience ahead of a mooted promotion to McLaren’s race line-up in 2015.
The fact that the team is considering a U-turn on this option simply underscores how deeply unimpressed the team has become with Pérez, who – despite enjoying the backing of a number of Mexican sponsors – has failed to deliver the kind of sparkling form he showed in 2012 which helped him land the seat at McLaren in the first place.
McLaren usually puts potential candidates’ results through a complex number of simulations and analysis to determine their suitability for a seat in the team. It is understood that Pérez’s numbers didn’t meet the grade, but Whitmarsh – potentially reeling at the loss of Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes – pushed for Pérez to be signed regardless, figuring he was the next hot prospect in Formula 1.
One would assume, therefore, that Magnussen’s numbers look considerably better.