Magnussen shines light in McLaren gloom

Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:34am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Cheery smiles and high-fives were a rare sight in the McLaren garage last year, 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 Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old Dane, son of former Formula one racer Jan, qualified fourth at Albert Park on Saturday, outshining former world 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 in the off-season after being team principal at last year's Australian race winners Lotus, was delighted with the highly fancied debutant's effort.

"A rookie's first ever qualifying session is always a daunting occasion for him, all the more so when rain has made the track surface both tricky and treacherous," Boullier said.

"Nonetheless, Kevin coped brilliantly with exactly those conditions."

Magnussen will line up alongside Nico Rosberg, with the German's Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton on pole.

The Dane said negotiating Albert Park's bumpy street circuit in rain squalls, gusty winds 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," he said.   Continued...

McLaren Formula One driver Kevin Magnussen of Denmark takes a corner during the qualifying session for the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Brandon Malone