A switch to the British F3 Championship in 2011 was with Carlin’s Dallara F308-Volkswagen. Team-mate Felipe Nasr established a championship-winning margin during the first half of the season while Magnussen recovered from a slow start to finish as runner-up – eventually matching the new champion’s seven race wins. The Dane then escaped injury after being launched high into the fence at Macau at over 160 mph.
McLaren protégé – F1 tests and title success
By now part of McLaren’s driver development programme, Magnussen raced for Carlin in the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Championship. Victory from pole position in the second race at Spa-Francorchamps provided the highlight of an inconsistent campaign that included just two additional podium finishes. However, he completed the year by setting the quickest time in Abu Dhabi’s young driver F1 test after two days behind the wheel of a McLaren MP4/27-Mercedes-Benz.
Magnussen moved to DAMS in 2013 for his second F.Renault 3.5 season for what proved to be a final audition for a McLaren F1 race seat. The Dane eclipsed team-mate and pre-season favourite da Costa to win five times (including pole to flag victories at the last three rounds) and beat fellow McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne to the title. That was a crucial success for Magnussen was soon announced as part of McLaren’s 2014 race team and da Costa, so long expected to be Red Bull’s next F1 graduate, was overlooked in favour of GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat.
Formula 1 with McLaren
McLaren’s 2014 season began with Magnussen and Jenson Button classified second and third in Australia after Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull was disqualified on a technicality. However, that masked the inadequacies of the new MP4/29 and they struggled in the midfield for much of the campaign. Censored for his sometimes overly forceful driving style, Magnussen often outpaced his vastly experienced team-mate but it was not enough to be included in the initial race line-up for 2015.
Button was announced as the returning Fernando Alonso’s team-mate for the 2015 F1 World Championship with Magnussen relegated to reserve driver for the season. With new engine partner Honda struggling to develop its V6 turbocharged engine, Magnussen was scheduled to race in the Australian GP after Alonso crashed in testing. However, his engine failed on the way to the grid – a portent for the team’s frustrating season to come.
Formula 1 reprieve with Renault
McLaren decided not to retain Magnussen and the Dane’s F1 career appeared over before a late call to replace Pastor Maldonado in Renault’s line-up for the 2016 World Championship. The team languished in the lower midfield although Magnussen hauled his RE16 into seventh-place in Russia. That was the highlight of an inconsistent campaign which included just one more points’ finish when 10th in Singapore.
Subsequent seasons with Haas
He switched to Haas F1 in 2017 and scored five points’ finishes on the way to 14th in the World Championship. He benefitted from the chaos in Baku to finish seventh and man-handled his uncompetitive car into eighth position in Mexico. With improved Ferrari engines strengthening Haas’ performances in 2018, Magnussen finished fifth in Bahrain and Austria as he outscored team-mate Romain Grosjean in the standings. He was outpaced by his team-mate by the end of the campaign but Magnussen completed the season in a career-best ninth overall.