Q: Kevin, your exit from McLaren was pretty rocky - your entrance to Renault seems to have been pretty smooth: can you talk us through those crucial weeks and months?
Kevin Magnussen: They were rocky weeks and months indeed! And my entrance to Renault was very pleasant. The atmosphere in Enstone immediately got me. What I saw there convinced me from the first moment that there would be a bright future.
Q: But it was all done at short notice…
KM: Sort of, yes. Between me signing the contract and my announcement were exactly two days!
Q: How did you - the reserve man - witness the disastrous 2015 season for McLaren? The team always said the mood was very good. Was it?
KM: It was a very difficult situation. The guys at McLaren are not stupid - they know exactly in which direction things are going and that it is nothing positive. So I can understand that they’ve all been a bit down and the mood was a bit tough. But as I just said, these are all very clever people so I hope for them that they will get back to the top again. At one point in time!
Q: Your departure from McLaren was obviously at short notice. Had F1 been over for you, what kind of plan B was on your agenda? What were you looking at?
KM: Of course Formula One was top of my list and of course you knock on every door. I always saw possibilities, but a possibility is not really what would make my day - just being there. So I also risked a look at DTM - and IndyCar! In fact I was very close to DTM. As an alternative I found it pretty tempting. I always had sort of a crush on DTM. And believe me: I am just glad that none of this happened - that I didn’t panic and sign a contract that was not my absolute choice, that I had the guts to sit quiet and wait for something better. And I can say that now I am exactly where I wanted to be. (laughs)
Q: Isn’t it rather brave of Renault to re-enter F1 as a fully-fledged manufacturer with one rookie driver and another with just one year F1 experience?
KM: Well, I don’t know if he driver pairing that they’ve chosen is a risk. What I understood is that they will follow a long-term plan - and their choice of drivers shows that as well. If they had chosen a world champion driver this entire plan wouldn’t make sense. I think if you plan long-term you need to invest in the right places and to go with two young upcoming drivers and grow together - that sounds to me like a good plan.
Q: What have you been told about the expectations the team has in terms of your performance and results? Just go out and race?
KM: Basically yes. But just go out and race has a very different meaning in F1 - the underlying message of this is: you better bring points back home!
Q: Does it help that Renault hasn’t really got any reputation to lose but can only win one?
KM: Look at our performance so far at this test: the guys in Enstone were running on such a small budget in the past year and still made Lotus look good - and now with proper funding everybody can witness that the curve is clearly moving north. I had a fantastic feeling in the car. It’s been a long time since I felt that.
Q: You had very little chance to sit in an F1 car in 2015. Is that a bit of a worry, to show performance right off the cuff?
KM: Not at all! Yes, I was so excited that I hardly slept the day before I jumped into the car. And as we speak I have done 264 laps in the last two days - and I am still over the moon, a bit exhausted yes - but also full of adrenalin.
Q: How have you prepared? Physical fitness and racing skills? In the end nothing really comes close to a day in the car…
KM: I am super happy that I have kept my training regime in all those weeks and months - and even intensified it - because of a lack of ‘car routine’. It really paid off, even if 264 laps - or four race distances - are a big chunk! (laughs)
Q: You experienced some back issues on your first test day and had to be treated in the lunch-break…
KM: No, no, no treatment - only some massage. But if you have been out of the car so long even the best preparation cannot really compensate the G-forces that you have in the car. But that was day one - day two is flawless.
Q: What can you say about your 2016 racer? The Renault takeover happened very late and Lotus were plagued by financial woes last year so the development of the 2016 car must have been affected…
KM: The car has a good base. It is predictable and, if you see the number of laps I did over the past two days, reliable. I think it is important to keep these characteristics of the car - but please a little bit more downforce - then it would be close to perfect.
Q: You started your first F1 season in 2014 with a second place in the season opener in Australia. How hard will it be to repeat that?
KM: Ha, in Melbourne everything is possible. And even if we don’t really expect to be on the podium - you have to be prepared! And I will be prepared - second time around!