The grainy Danish newcast captured the moment Kevin Magnussen first sat behind the wheel of a ‘McLaren.’ Admittedly, it wasn’t a full-size Formula 1 car, but it was still a remarkably accurate, motorised toy car given to him by his racing driver father, Jan.
Despite barely being able to see over the steering wheel, the video – taken when Kev was still a toddler – was incredibly revealing. The impish grin that spread across the young Dane’s face when he returned the car to the pits told you even more: here was a boy born to race for McLaren!
Indeed, so deep runs the link, his father also raced for McLaren – albeit, a single outing to replace an appendix-stricken Mika Hakkinen, at the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix. Jan qualified 12th, finishing the race in 10th, just one position behind his team-mate Mark Blundell.
For the 21-year-old, securing a McLaren race drive could be seen as the fulfilment of a certain familial destiny. But, with customary single-mindedness, Kev saw his graduation to Formula 1 as the next step on his lifelong journey towards becoming Formula 1 world champion.
It’s been a heady trip.
After a successful career in karting, Kevin made the jump to single-seaters in 2008, winning the Danish Formula Ford championship with a hugely impressive record of 11 wins, 12 podiums, six pole positions and 10 fastest laps.
The following year, he graduated to Formula Renault 2.0, finishing runner-up in the Northern European Cup and seventh in the Eurocup. In the NEC, he scored one win, 12 podiums and two pole positions – achievements that earned him the title, ‘Rookie of the Year.’
In 2010, he moved into German Formula Three, impressing immediately by taking victory in the opening round of the season. It was the first of three victories on his way to securing third in the championship and once again being named ‘Rookie of the Year.’
Kev also joined the McLaren Young Driver programme in 2010, dovetailing his racing activities with training and development work with the Formula 1 outfit.
In 2011, he moved into British Formula 3, building upon the successes of the previous season. He finished second in the championship after securing seven race wins, six pole positions and eight fastest laps. As a result, his F3 team, Carlin Motorsport, signed him up for 2012’s World Series by Renault 3.5 series. As a rookie, he won once and took three further podium spots, but the year helped him sharpen his teeth before a full assault on the WSR title in 2013.
With a year’s experience under his belt, Kev underlined both his speed and maturity, slowly tightening his grip on the title, before underlining his supremacy by dominating the series’ final two rounds.
It was that blend of assurance, maturity and potential, as well as a pair of stunningly impressive testing outings at Abu Dhabi and Silverstone, that helped him land the Formula 1 race drive for 2014.
As the first Dane to start a Formula 1 race for a decade (Nicolas Kiesa raced for Minardi at the tail-end of 2003), a nation’s gaze was directed towards him when he lined up on the grid for his first-ever grand prix in March 2014. For Kevin Magnussen, however, only taking on the world – and winning – will be enough, such is his determination.