“It doesn’t really compare to any other experience I’ve had,” Magnussen said about his condensed prep schedule. “This is certainly the very least prepared I’ve ever been to step into a race. But, you know, at the end of the day, […] it’s not the greatest circumstances when you’ve got a driver out because he got hurt in a crash. Luckily, [Felix]’s recovering very well and he’s going to be fine. But yeah, I mean, when you get an opportunity like this, I’m a racing driver and when an opportunity comes to go and drive an awesome race car like an Indy car, I had to take it.”
Magnussen’s IndyCar debut coincidentally comes for the same organisation that started his F1 career. In 2014, Magnussen finished second in the season-opening round in Australia in what would be his only podium in F1.
McLaren bought into the IndyCar team co-owned by Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson in 2019 and the team has raced with fellow McLaren F1 alumni Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya at the Indianapolis 500. This helps bring Magnussen’s career full circle.
“The bumps aren’t a problem. We’re racing drivers, just get on with it!”
“It’s great to be back with the McLaren brand,” Magnussen said. “It’s been home for me for many years, but I spent my whole kind of junior career being a young driver for McLaren in the F1 programme and I have a lot of good memories from that. You know, they gave me […] lots of good memories and in that regard, so nice to be back with that brand. ”
Magnussen spent the last four F1 seasons teamed with Romain Grosjean at Haas F1 before both were released after 2020. Since then, the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 champion has paid close attention to Grosjean’s IndyCar adventure after the Frenchman signed with Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing to race the No. 51 Honda.
“I see Romain is doing well and I’m happy to see him,” Magnussen said. “I can see how big of a smile he’s carrying around and he’s certainly enjoying himself around here and he’s had a good season so far as a rookie learning all the new tracks, […] these tracks are difficult, so for him to be doing pole positions already and podiums and it’s pretty impressive to see, so it’s nice.”
Magnussen, meanwhile, signed with Ganassi’s DPi programme with co-driver Renger van der Zande, and so both former Haas drivers have had to spend the last seven months learning all new racing circuits.
Instead of racing at pristine, smooth circuits like Suzuka and Silverstone, Magnussen and Grosjean have driven at Sebring, Detroit and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the latter pair of which both drivers will have raced on by the time 2021 has concluded (Grosjean only tested at Sebring).
“These [North American] tracks, they haven’t really been changed for decades and you feel that character has remained in the track,” said Magnussen. “It’s not a problem that it’s a little bit bumpy. In Europe they complain if there’s a little bump on the track. We’re racing drivers, just get on with it!