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Kevin Magnussen Q&A: I’ve done all I can to retain Renault seat

29 Sep 2016

After a rookie season with McLaren in 2014, and then an unexpected ‘year off’, 2016 has proved tough for Kevin Magnussen, as Renault’s renewed works effort has struggled to get up to speed. Magnussen is keen to stay - and grow - with the French team, but despite scoring all their points so far, as yet he has had no confirmation of his future. We caught up with the Dane for an exclusive chat ahead of this weekend’s Malaysian race to find out the latest situation…

Q: Kevin, it seems the team is keeping you hanging on - or what is the state of affairs right now?

Kevin Magnussen: Ha, I’m driving here in Sepang. Further than that? I know I will go to Japan next week…

Q: …and what about your 2017 contract?

KM: Well, I think I have done all I can this season with the material I was given. I have scored all the points the team has and I feel Iam working well with the engineers and everybody in the team - and it feels that they appreciate what I am doing. Of course, it is always a bit worrying if you don’t have a contract for next year, but I hope everything is sorted out rather soon.

Q: How long will you wait to hear from Renault? Do you have a ‘plan B’ or are you betting everything on staying with Renault?

KM: I definitely will not bet everything on this one thing. I need to earn a living from racing. I don’t want to do anything else than racing - and I want to race in Formula One. My goal is and has always been Formula One, but you always have to balance your career. There are teams inside and outside F1 who can’t wait any longer and at some point you have to make a decision - but that is not an imminent need.

Q: Your departure from McLaren, your last team, came rather suddenly. Is it a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’?

KM: You gain experience from such a situation. And the McLaren experience is something I never want to go through again. Having a season without racing at all - that is a situation I really, really, really want to avoid…

Q: Three ‘really’s - it’s that bad?

KM: Ha, you can even put five ‘really’s! (Laughs) I never want to be without a seat again. And I don’t think that I will be in such a situation for 2017.

Q: There have been suggestions of possible disagreement between Enstone and Viry regarding the direction in which Renault should develop. Is that something that makes a driver’s life difficult?

KM: Well, I honestly have no idea what the reason for not deciding on my contract is - but I hope it is sorted out soon, at least for me.

Q: What about the bigger picture of the team’s development? Or is that something you don’t want to comment on?

KM: Yes.

Q: Your team principal Fred Vasseur has a pretty clear plan of the time frame it will take Renault to become successful again: he was speaking of years. What does that do to a driver’s patience?

KM: I am one of the younger drivers, so I should not fear the time frame ‘years’. I have time on my side to stay with this team for a long time, and in the end hopefully achieve what we want - together. So I am more than happy to go through that journey with this team.

Q: And he sees you as one of five young drivers who will make it big in the future…

KM: If the team gives me the time, then I will prove him right! (Laughs)

Q: The team’s performance seems to have dropped off as the season has progressed. Is that because of an increasing focus on 2017, or have you simply taken a wrong path with development?

KM: I only agree partly. Yes, it’s been a bit up and down - and it will be up and down for the rest of the season. But yes, it could also be true that we’ve been a bit stronger at the beginning of the season and that is probably down to our early focus in 2017.

Q: Red Bull Racing are second in the standings with a Renault engine. Why is there so little sign of that success from Renault’s own car, given that many say it’s an engine-driven championship?

KM: You have to give Red Bull Racing incredible credit for where they are with an engine that is not the best in the paddock, not the most powerful on the grid. But Red Bull is also lucky to have an engine manufacturer behind them who is clearly going to deliver in the future. There are things in the pipeline that will really perform well.

Q: So the hope is that as the engine improves even more, the car improvement will follow?

KM: Of course we look at what Red Bull is doing, but before them we have other teams to beat. They are second in the standings. My guess is that Red Bull has the best car on the grid - that is why they are where they are with that engine. We know a lot of the parameters, so I would say they clearly have a very strong aerodynamic package.

Q: Your team mate Jolyon Palmer is a rookie, and you yourself are only in your second full F1 season. Would you have appreciated being partnered with someone with more experienced, to drive the team forward?

KM: The main problem is that actually nobody really knows how good Jolyon is. I know that he is very fast. He won the GP2 championship in front of a hell of a lot of good drivers. But in some ways, of course, it is easier for your own reputation to be up against - and outperform - a big name instead of Jolyon. When I am in front of him people don’t appreciate how good that is. That is a bit of a pity for my career, because he is very fast and everything you need in a team mate - except he doesn’t have a big reputation in F1.

Q: Malaysia is hot and humid. What are your expectations here, based on what you have experienced before?

KM: That it takes quite some time for your body to get used to that climate. That the race before this one was Singapore should help a bit. But actually it is nothing to really worry about. I have raced once here in 2014 - so quite a while ago. The track is a little bit different now and there is a new tarmac, so we will find out how it works with the tyres tomorrow. The weather can go crazy here, so the good news is that everything is possible - and I take it as it comes.