Jenson Button has admitted he was surprised McLaren picked Kevin Magnussen for the 2014 Formula 1 season, but has no doubts his future team-mate can be ready.
After weeks of speculation about its driver plans for next year, McLaren confirmed on Thursday that it was replacing Sergio Perez with rookie Magnussen next year. Button concedes that Magnussen will face a tough challenge getting up to speed, but he reckons the Dane has the qualities need to make a success of it.
“I am always surprised by F1 and things that change,” said Button, when asked for his views on McLaren’s driver decision. “I was surprised last year when Lewis [Hamilton] decided to leave and the same now, but that is what F1 is like. Things change and we learn to adapt.
“I have always said that it is important with new regulations to have a teammate who has got experience. Kevin doesn’t have that, but I think his outright speed is very good and the bit that is more important for me.
“From the tests he has done in an F1 car, and looking at the data and what have you, his feedback has been very good which is going to be very important for the start of the year. We get equal days in the car and it is important that his feedback is good. Having confidence in that, it is an exciting challenge I think for all of us next year and I think having Kevin on board with his speed and determination is good for the team.”
RISK BIGGER FOR MAGNUSSEN THAN McLAREN
Although some have viewed McLaren’s decision to sign a rookie as a risk, Button thinks that in such a situation it is the driver himself who faces the biggest hazard.
“It is definitely one of those positions where it could light up your career or it could put an end to your career very early in the sport if it doesn’t go well,” he said. “So it is a massive risk for a driver to be put into the deep end if you like, with a team that is competitive and fighting at the front, or should be fighting at the front. But if a driver is willing to take that risk, he has a lot of confidence in himself and his ability in terms of his speed and the way of working with his team.
“It could go one way or another, but I hope it goes the positive way because he is someone I want to work with throughout the year and he needs to be in the right frame of mind.”