IN A NEW regular series, I will be profiling the careers of those drivers who won races and championships and those who either didn’t get the luck, or just failed at the top level of motorsport. All drivers featured will have competed between the years 1991-2011.
The next driver featured is the Dane who came with big potential and left with relatively little to show for his efforts midway through 1998, Jan Magnussen.
NAME: Jan Magnussen
TEAMS: McLaren (1995), Stewart (1997-1998)
GP STARTS: 25
BEST FINISH: 6th (1998 Canadian GP)
NOW 38 years old, Jan Magnussen was one of Denmark’s highest hopes but in Formula One, it all went badly wrong. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t a bad driver, sometimes things don’t go according to form and plan. A real shame for a driver who threatened great things in his junior career.
Magnussen came into Formula One with a huge reputation, especially after dismantling the competition in the 1994 British Formula 3 Championship. Competing for Paul Stewart Racing, he beat Ayrton Senna’s record of 13 wins in a season. Once he won the second event at Donington Park in April 1994, the title trophy might as well been awarded to him. Jan won six of the first eight races and ended up with a final total of 14 wins from 18 starts. Magnussen ended with a total of 308 points, a massive 125 points clear of his nearest challenger, which was Belgian Vincent Radermacker.
Magnussen did some testing for McLaren in 1995 and when regular driver Mika Hakkinen went down with appendicitis, Magnussen was drafted into the team for the Pacific Grand Prix in 1995. He actually did fairly well, having a good dice with Rubens Barrichello’s Jordan throughout and finished a creditable tenth, just behind team-mate Mark Blundell. After some touring car racing in 1996, Jan got his big break with the new Stewart Grand Prix team. Having raced in Paul Stewart’s F3 team, he was seen the perfect fit to partner the experienced and versatile Barrichello in 1997.
The season was always going to be a learning experience and Magnussen’s confidence took a severe hit. No points in 17 races and not many finishes either, as the Ford engine often tended to blow up rather than survive to the chequered flag. Seventh in the wet Monaco Grand Prix was his best result and ninth at the season finale in Jerez was a solid effort, having raced the Benetton’s and Olivier Panis in the Prost for most of the event. The Dane’s best race came at the A1-Ring, where he qualified an excellent sixth and ran as high as fourth, ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and David Coulthard amongst others. Magnussen slipped to tenth after the team put him on the wrong pit strategy and a broken driveshaft eventually ended his race.
1998 started even worse, when he took himself and Ralf Schumacher off on the third lap in Melbourne. He was miles behind Barrichello in the same car, qualifying slowest in Argentina, 21st at Imola and 20th in Barcelona. Stories about his future continued to put Magnussen under pressure, so crashing into Barrichello at the first corner at Imola didn’t help matters. By the time of the seventh event in 1998, Magnussen had to deliver a brilliant performance and another dismal qualifying effort in Montreal, again in 20th left him fighting against a huge tidalwave. His race was highly impressive, running fourth and keeping a consistent pace throughout. Although he got some luck in the amount of retirements in Canada, he scored a championship point in sixth. Sadly the damage had already been done and Jackie Stewart replaced him with Dutchman Jos Verstappen for the rest of the season.
Since his F1 rejection, Magnussen has turned into an almost complete motorsport competitor. He has raced in CART, Danish Touring Cars and more predominately in sportscars. At Le Mans every year since 1999, his best finish at La Sarthe has been fourth in 2003 and 2006.
Sir Jackie Stewart once said Jan Magnussen was the greatest young talent since the early days of Ayrton Senna. Sadly his Formula One experience turned into a forgettable, rather than a memorable time.
NEXT TIME ON THE DRIVER FILES: Flying Finn JJ Lehto, who has fallen on hard times of late but had spectacular natural speed.
THE sport’s governing body the FIA confirmed in the early hours of the morning that next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix on the Sakhir circuit will take place as scheduled. FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone met the team principals from all 12 Formula One teams in Shanghai this morning where the Chinese Grand Prix takes place this weekend. No concerns were raised from the meeting and all agreed that the race should take place. The FIA insisted that assurances had been made about general security following regular disputes in the country over the past year during the Arab Uprisings. It is these protests that led to the cancellation of the 2011 race.
These are the key points in the statement released to the world by the sport’s governing body from the FIA website;
“The FIA is the governing body of motor sport and therefore of Formula One. As such, it sets the season’s calendars following the proposal of the Commercial Rights Holder (CRH) in accordance with the local national authorities in all matters relating to safety. Within that context, the FIA ensures that any event forming part of an FIA World Championship is organised in compliance with the FIA Statutes and the relevant Sporting and Technical Regulations and that the safety of the public, officials, drivers and teams is secured at all times during an event. The FIA must make rational decisions based on the information provided to us by the Bahraini authorities and by the Commercial Rights Holder. In addition we have endeavoured to assess the ongoing situation in Bahrain. Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula One World Championship event in Bahrain. Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled.”
The drivers haven’t said much in recent weeks, but some have expressed their views over the weekend in China. In his official column he does with BBC Formula One, Red Bull’s Mark Webber said; “If we have a choice…I want to race, and I would like to go there and do that. But you cannot ignore the fact there are a lot of good people in our sport and all of them have in the back of their minds that we want it to go down smoothly and we don’t want to be involved with the situation that’s out there.”
Earlier in the week, Sir Jackie Stewart had insisted the sport should visit the Gulf State, which before last year had held an annual event since 2004. 1996 world champion and Sky Sports F1 pundit Damon Hill disagreed, raising severe safety concerns over the region. Since the protests began on the government last year, upto 50 protestors have died and although not on the scale of the uprisings in Egypt, Libya and more recently Syria, the trouble has not left the Manama region.
Bernie Ecclestone has been under severe pressure all week from media outlets and this afternoon, he sat down for an exclusive interview with BBC F1 anchor Jake Humphrey. Ecclestone insisted that he was confident there would be no trouble at the event next week. The interview can be seen below;
The decision has been made and it will have driven various opinion from many sources. However the race does go ahead now and let’s hope it proceeds without any serious implications for the sport, the drivers, spectators going to Sakhir and of course the Bahrani people.