Imagine being an F1 rookie in 2014. You work yourself into the ground your whole life to earn a place at the pinnacle of motorsport, and what do you get? The worst-looking cars in a generation. Imagine showing them to your mum…
Yes, this year’s three newcomers will forever be associated with their first F1 cars, and all have uniquely weird-looking racers. Not that they’ll mind; Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat and Marcus Ericsson are just happy to be F1 drivers. But how will they fare? Fear not, Badger’s got the lowdown on these new hip cats… that’s how kids talk these days, right?
McLaren should be commended for handing Kevin Magnussen a race seat for 2014. Aware that he may not get a shot elsewhere – and clearly impressed by his talents – they booted out the fast and well-funded Sergio Perez in favour of a driver they believe has world title potential. For his part, Magnussen has been superb throughout his junior career and thoroughly deserves an F1 seat. But can he hack it at one of the sport’s most famous – and demanding – teams?
Pre-F1 Form: Magnussen possesses a strong CV. His standout achievements include finishing as runner-up in the competitive Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup (2009) and British F3 (2011), but these pale in comparison to last season, when he dominated a very tough Formula Renault 3.5 field.
The Hype: Contesting his rookie season with McLaren has led to comparisons with Lewis Hamilton, though we can’t see Kevin dating a Pussycat Doll or wearing snap-back hats (not that he couldn’t pull them off). The truth is that he’s very fast and surprisingly charismatic for a 21-year-old racing driver.
Team-mate comparison: Jenson Button is nearing the end of his career, and his ultimate pace is now behind him. As such Magnussen has the opportunity to learn from the vastly experienced Brit, but there’s also the possibility that he could spring a few performance surprises, particularly during the European season. That would do wonders for his reputation.
Future potential: Magnussen’s looks capable of winning races one day, and in McLaren he’s certainly landed a fantastic opportunity to grow up with the team as it undergoes some pretty significant changes. A world champion? We’ll need at least a season to judge that, but the signs are promising.
And another thing: His dad, the former Stewart Grand Prix driver Jan Magnussen, was also a McLaren junior in his day, and drove for the team at the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix. Regular driver Mika Hakkinen was absent from the race after undergoing an operation for appendicitis.
Most keen-eyed junior racing followers have been aware of Daniil Kvyat for some time now, though few expected him to be in F1 this soon. That is partly because the Russian looks about 13 years old, but don’t be fooled: Kvyat is a mature head on young shoulders who is more than capable of grasping his F1 chance with both hands.
Pre-F1 Form: In 2013 Kvyat ran a dual schedule, competing full-time in the GP3 Series and in the non-clashing European F3 Championship events. After a low-key start he gathered serious GP3 momentum late on and won the title at the season-closing Abu Dhabi event. By that time he’d already been confirmed as an F1 driver for 2014.
The Hype: He’s Russian, so clearly he’s only here because of his money. Oh wait, he’s the reigning GP3 champion and a race-winner in a host of other top European championships…
Team-mate comparison: Jean-Eric Vergne has solid experience and, on occasion, looks the real deal. However he also has a tendency to vanish from sight for several races on the bounce. If Kvyat overcomes the Frenchman this year his status as a star of the future will be cemented; if he doesn’t no one will be too fussed, given JEV’s experience.
Future potential: He’s a Red Bull junior, so in three years he’ll either be in a race-winning car or sat at home planning his new career as a DJ. The latter seems unlikely: everything he’s done so far suggests the lad is quick and adaptable (and he can’t work a turntable anyway). It’s difficult to make a clear judgement as he’s skipped the usual F1 proving grounds, but he’ll be given time to learn in 2014, and it should be as the season enters its latter stages that we can make a proper judgement on Kvyat’s long-term prospects.
And another thing: Kvyat will become the eighth teenager to race in F1, joining the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and, err, Esteban Tuero. We should also mention that Kvyat’s middle name is Vyacheslavovich, which we expect very few commentators to ever make mention of.
A stalwart of the GP2 Series who didn’t win enough races to suggest genuine talent, Marcus Ericsson will race for Caterham this year after replacing Giedo Van Der Garde, a stalwart of the GP2 Series who didn’t win enough races to suggest genuine talent. Stick with what you know, chaps.
Pre-F1 Form: Ericsson was Japanese F3 champion in 2009, but the field wasn’t too deep talent-wise. He subsequently spent four seasons in GP2, winning three races. Last year, driving for the double reigning champions DAMS, he finished sixth. Solid but unspectacular.
The Hype: There’s not much. He’s Swedish. Is that interesting?
Team-mate comparison: Kamui Kobayashi is more popular than he is fast, though it must be pointed out that he’s very popular. The Japanese returnee should have the edge over Ericsson this year, and will probably make a swift return to sportscar racing if he doesn’t. Ericsson should also be keeping an eye on Caterham’s reserve drivers: Alexander Rossi and Robin Frijns are both genuine talents, particularly the Dutchman.
Future potential: It’s hard to see Ericsson achieving great things in F1, but with a bit of luck (and cash) he could hang around for a few years. He’ll need to beat Kobayashi this season to get the ball rolling but, like any funded driver, it’ll be tough for him to shake the pay-to-play tag.
And another thing: Ericsson’s home town of Kumla is famous for its jam manufacturing industry (be honest, you don’t get that kind of info in Autosport, do you?)