Magnussen tipped as future champion
3:13pm Monday 17th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Ron Dennis believes Kevin Magnussen has what it takes to become the next Formula One world champion from McLaren.
Dennis, back in the paddock over the Australian Grand Prix weekend in his former role as McLaren Group chief executive, knows a thing or two about helping to turn a driver into a title winner.
After all, he has done it before with some of the greats of the sport in Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton.
So when Magnussen became the first rookie to step on to the podium at the end of the race at Melbourne's Albert Park since Hamilton, Dennis was naturally probed about the 21-year-old's credentials.
After finishing third behind winner Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes, the Dane was later elevated to second after Daniel Ricciardo was excluded from the result due to a fuel violation with his Red Bull.
For now, pending the outcome of an appeal from Red Bull and excluding F1's first race in 1950 when all the drivers were debutants, Magnussen is only the fifth driver in F1 history to finish second or higher on debut.
Dennis, instrumental last season in the decision to axe Sergio Perez and push for rookie Magnussen to take up the seat, said: "It is a big step to commit to a driver and put him in a grand prix car. No matter his form, there is a risk.
"But I don't think there is any question he has delivered more than expected, mainly because of his aptitude and not making mistakes.
"He couldn't have done a better job. He never put a wheel off the track, followed all the instructions, and pushed very hard at the right times. I have nothing but praise for him.
"To finish where he did in his first grand prix, with the complexity of the regulations, and after a challenging qualifying in wet and dry conditions, who could ask for more?
"He has justified the selection process. It's tough to make those decisions because you could always be wrong, but this one was right."
Asked as to Magnussen's title credentials, Dennis added: "He has all the ingredients necessary to win a world championship, although he has to be in a competitive car.
"It's only one race and we'll see where he is after four, but I don't have any concerns about his temperament, focus or commitment, and he is prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary."
It was not only Magnussen, though, who displayed such credentials as the unfortunate Ricciardo similarly impressed Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
The 24-year-old was rightly acclaimed by tens of thousands of fans on Sunday after claiming the runner-up spot on the back of a confident, mature drive.
But over five hours after the race had concluded, and after the Perth-born driver had departed the track, the FIA announced he had been disqualified.
With the arrival of the new 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged engines, there are also new rules which state cars must now start with a maximum 100 kilograms of fuel, as opposed to 140-150kg in previous years.
They must also operate with a fuel-flow rate of no more than 100kg per hour, yet Ricciardo's car was found to consistently exceed that.
Despite Horner expressing himself to be "extremely disappointed", he was nonetheless thrilled with the performance of Ricciardo, promoted from Toro Rosso last season as replacement for Mark Webber.
"Daniel was so cool all weekend, incredible. He was absolutely inch-perfect," said Horner.
"His demeanour in the car is so calm and even during the race it was as if he was in the simulator, with his pace all weekend extremely good
"What he achieved over the weekend should give him a great injection of confidence because he was immensely impressive dealing with the pressure of a home race in front of a demanding crowd, a debut in a new team."
Horner even went so far as to highlight the similarities between Ricciardo and four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, who retired early with an engine problem.
"What I was most impressed about was his communication from the car, how calm and relaxed he was," added Horner.
"He was fighting for second place and it didn't even sound like he'd broken into a sweat out there.
"That was very reminiscent of exactly how Sebastian is, so really encouraging."