Motor racing: Magnussen's surprise return to Formula One, as Maldonado bids emotional exit

McLaren's Fernando Alonso (foreground, left) and Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado after a collision at the first turn of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit in November last year. Maldonado, who drove for Williams and Lotus, could still l
McLaren's Fernando Alonso (foreground, left) and Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado after a collision at the first turn of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit in November last year. Maldonado, who drove for Williams and Lotus, could still land a seat with the Manor team for this season.PHOTO: REUTERS
PASTOR MALDONADO.
PASTOR MALDONADO.

Renault offers Dane chance to revive career as Maldonado bids farewell in sponsor fallout

LONDON • Kevin Magnussen, the young Dane cast aside by McLaren, will be on the Formula One grid this season after all.

He is expected to be revealed today as a driver with the new Renault team alongside Jolyon Palmer, the Briton about to embark on his debut season.

The casualty is Pastor Maldonado, 30, who had clung to his place in Formula One by dint of his substantial £30 million (S$61.6 million) sponsorship provided by PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company that was his backer.

He revealed on Monday that he had lost the drive with Renault for this season.

"Today, with the biggest humility, I inform you that I won't be on the grid at the start of the 2016 season," he said.

VICTIM OF THE RESHUFFLE

I'm very thankful to God, my family, my sponsors, my friends, my fans and everybody who has helped me materialise this dream of having represented Venezuela (at) the pinnacle of motorsport. See you soon!

PASTOR MALDONADO, the former Williams F1 driver famous for crashes and penalties.

"Thanks for all the messages of support, passion and concerns about my future.

"I'm very thankful to God, my family, my sponsors, my friends, my fans and everybody who has helped me materialise this dream of having represented Venezuela (at) the pinnacle of motorsport. See you soon!"

Below-par performances and a disagreement over ongoing sponsorship doomed his F1 career, while giving Magnussen the chance to resurrect his ambitions.

Maldonado started 95 races and won the Spanish Grand Prix for Williams - the British team's last victory - in 2012, but his career has been blighted by number of crashes and errors.

Analysis by F1fanatic.co.uk showed that the Venezuelan, who started out with Williams in 2011, incurred twice as many penalties as any other driver over his 95 races. Social media revelled in his run-ins with hashtags to highlight them. The hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com site, which acquired a loyal following for its regular updates, switched to a sad face on Monday.

After a single season at McLaren in an under-performing car, 23-year-old Magnussen was ditched to make way for Fernando Alonso, the two-time world champion.

The Dane waited in the wings as a reserve driver last season, hoping to be brought back into the race team, but the decision to give Jenson Button another year at the age of 36 put paid to that.

Magnussen joins the new dawn of Renault, the French carmaker which took over the ailing Lotus team at the end of last year.

Having completed the formal split with Red Bull, Renault are bidding to launch a new age of success as a factory team to replicate the championship-winning years with Alonso.

Renault were known to be unhappy with the signing of Maldonado by Lotus executives last season and were agitating for change.

Palmer earned his chance as the 2014 GP2 champion while Maldonado was seen as more trouble than he was worth on the track.

Australian Mark Webber, the former Red Bull driver, described Maldonado as the "worst" driver in Formula One, even though the Venezuelan had a race victory to his name.

Maldonado's only potential opening now is with the lowly Manor team, who have yet to appoint two drivers.

The new F1 season starts in Australia on March 20.

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2016, with the headline 'MAGNUSSEN'S SURPRISE F1 RETURN'. Print Edition | Subscribe