Jackie Stewart described Jan Magnussen as “the greatest driving talent to emerge since Ayrton Senna”. The young Dane dominated the 1994 British F3 championship, winning 14 of 18 races for the Paul Stewart team. As a teenager he’d already won the ultra-competitive Formula Ford Festival, his destiny as a future Formula 1 world champion seemingly assured.
He made his F1 debut for McLaren at the Pacific Grand Prix in October 1995 but the dream career was diverted across the Atlantic for 1996. Jan stood in for both Paul Tracy and Emerson Fittipaldi in Penske’s CART team after both were badly hurt in accidents. Then came the big chance to prove himself with the Stewart Grand Prix team alongside Rubens Barrichello for 1997.
To this day people are still mystified why it ended, not with a championship, but by being replaced by Jos Verstappen halfway through 1998. Talking to Motor Sport from his home in Roskilde, this immensely likeable Dane looks back on his time in F1 and tells us, in typically honest fashion, how he rebuilt his career in America.