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Magnussen the Magnificent in Oz

2014-03-15 20:47

GRIN FACTOR:Lewis Hamilton took pole for McLaren ahead of the 2014 Australian F1 GP but it was. young Kevin Magnussen (inset) who brought out the team's smiles. Image: AFP

IAN RANSOM

Magnussen shines light in McLaren gloom

MELBOURNE, Australia - Cheery smiles and high-fives were a rare sight in the McLaren garage in 2013 but new boy Kevin Magnussen inspired a bout of happy back-slapping when he put the British team on the second row for Sunday's season-opening Australian GP.

The 21-year-old Dane, son of former F1 driver Jan, qualified fourth at Albert Park on Saturday, outshining former F1 champion team mate Jenson Button, who will line up 10th on the grid after a rain-hit session.

Racing director Eric Boullier, who joined McLaren during the off-season after being team principal at 2013's Australian race winners Lotus, was delighted by the highly fancied debutant's effort.

'COPED BRILLIANTLY'

"A rookie's first qualifying session is always a daunting occasion, all the more so when rain has made the track surface both tricky and treacherous," Boullier said. "Kevin coped brilliantly with exactly those conditions."

Magnussen will line up alongside Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton took pole.

The Dane said negotiating Albert Park's bumpy street circuit in rain squalls, gusty wind and in a new car that still has plenty of development ahead was "much trickier" than anything he had bargained for "but I don't think I could have asked for any more today".

"I made a mistake and went off on my last lap," he added, "so I might have been able to go quicker, but I'm still happy. The car was really good. I'm proud of myself but also proud of the whole team for doing such a massively good job of preparing me over the winter.

"I'll try to enjoy Sunday and do the best I can - getting on the podium won't be easy, especially if it's dry, but if it's wet, anything could happen - so I guess a wet GP is what I'll be hoping for."

'VERY GOOD CHANCE'

Button will be hoping for the same after his qualifying was marred by an untimely crash by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the second session which brought out the yellow flags. He said"

"I think we had a very good chance of qualifying closer to the front because our car isn't quite so quick in the dry. Not getting into the top 10 was sheer bad luck - I hope I won't be so unlucky tomorrow."

Magnussen replaced Mexican Sergio Perez at McLaren; Perez failed to win a podium spot in 2013 year in the team's worst season in decades.

The Dane is the first rookie since Hamilton in 2007 to make his F1 debut with McLaren. Hamilton finished third in Melbourne in his first race after also qualifying fourth.
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