Magnussen “facing rookie syndrome” – Boullier

2014 F1 season

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Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, Monte-Carlo, 2014McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says Kevin Magnussen is experiencing the normal difficulties new drivers have when they step up from one-make series to Formula One.

Here are the full answers Boullier gave to a series of questions in a phone-in interview today:

Question: “Alain Prost said prior to Monaco that McLaren possibly need a new approach to be successful in F1. Is that something you either agree with, or are even working on, or did your double points finish prove you are progressing in the right direction?”

Answer: “Yes I agree with the comments of Alain. This is what I’ve been doing now since I started. And I think the double points finish of last weekend are mostly due to the track layout which is suiting our car. But it’s also rewarding as well as the hard work which we are doing here in Woking and since now a couple of races we have, let’s say seriously pushed on the development and you can see on the car. And it’s going to go through now the next races so it’s partially due to, yes, the change of direction and, let’s say, what we have been picking up in terms of performance.”

Q: “You got, first of all, a positive result in Monaco, given the run of point-less finishes you had. With upgrades coming for, first of all, Canada, and your more major upgrades for later on down the line, in Montreal do you need to see some evident progress to be satisfied or are you just looking to consolidate your position back in the points?”

A: “I think honestly it should be both. First of all we have been bringing upgrades regularly since the beginning of the season but clearly we had a strong push since Barcelona.

“In Monaco we had a lot of mechanical upgrades on the car which obviously the track layout of Canada obviously is high-speed – long straight lines, high-speed track but with no high-speed corners, a lot of chicanes and low-speed corners – so it should suit actually our car. So we should be in even better shape in Canada than we were in Monaco.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Sepang International Circuit, 2014Q: “To follow up on the Prost comments, I’m interested in your assessment why the likes of Red Bull and Mercedes have been able to outmanoeuvre the likes of McLaren and Ferrari in the way that Alain suggests?

A: “You can have another question because I’m not sure I want to answer this one! It’s part of, let’s say, the job I’m doing, and I don’t obviously want to make it public.”

Q: “Talking about Kevin Magnussen, as a rookie driver coming into Formula One with such a massive regulations change, has he found it from your perspective difficult to give the right feedback to the team in terms of developing the car? Have you found it more challenging having one rookie driver and one experienced driver as opposed to having two experienced drivers?”

A: “Well that’s a good one! I don’t think it’s more challenging to have a rookie driver rather than two experienced drivers, let’s say. Because you can, I mean the key is now, especially kids like Kevin can do, let’s say, most of the job and get enough feedback to lead or to at least answer some questions from the engineering team. And obviously when you have somebody more experienced like Jenson [Button] you get more details and you can dig in more problems to find solutions.

“I think Kevin is facing the rookie syndrome which is obviously they are all coming from a single-maker series. Where they are struggling much is to understand the cars they have, the cars they are working for and trying to develop is giving them some kind of result and obviously if you don’t have the best car you can’t fight for the win. This is where they most struggle with.

“But the rest is fine, to be honest, he’s settling well, he is very consistent, the feedback is good enough to drive his engineering group around him to make the car faster. So he is doing very well for a rookie.”

Q: “At the end of June the regulations submissions need to be put forth. What are the teams likely to put forward from a cost saving perspective and is there anything else that we’re likely to hear about that might be of interest for 2015?”

A: “Well it’s a long, long subject and we have in a few days another meeting, actually, to keep discussing before the end of June, yes, where it’s easier to change for 2015 when you just have to get the majority [vote], not the unanimity.

“I think we have to be careful. There is on one side, let’s say, the more change we can do to the regulation and the more money we could potentially spend in adjusting our businesses to the new rule. We know that regularity actually and trying to keep the regulation stable over a few years is the best way to make sure we are saving money.

“At the same time there is a couple of obviously big discussions about format of the weekend, or even price of the engine, where we obviously restriction in the wind tunnel or some other question where we could potentially save more money. But once again we have to be more careful about the change we are doing to not create… by experience the more change we do in the regulations the more money we spend.

“So you have to be in some ways stable on the regulations and there is still potentially some space where we can save money. So this is where we are trying to agree for the future but I am not going into any crazy decisions because at the end we could produce the inverse of what we want to do.”

2014 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Magnussen “facing rookie syndrome” – Boullier”

  1. This team is still the dissapointment of the season if you ask me. Six races in and they are still not usual suspects for points scoring positions. I’m not saying Magnussen is doing anything wrong but maybe keeping Perez for another year might have helped develop the car a little bit better. It just seems Button isn’t really the man to lead a team anyway.

    Considering Magnussen scored 85% of his points in one race whilst Button scored half his points in that race and only had two other points finishes might also just indicate how wrong things are at the MTC in general.

    1. The only explanation I can think of is if McLaren are putting less money/effort/personnel into developing their F1 car? Because last year and this year so far have been utterly shocking by their high standards.

    2. Hulkenberg. Should have signed Hulkenberg.

      1. He’s either invisible to McLaren or too fat. Quite a contradiction.

        1. I’m still hoping they gonna replace Button by the Hulk next year. As he proved last year, Hülkenberg can give good feed-back and help improving the car during a season (something I’ve never seen from Button).

  2. Remember what he said last year, about not wanting to work with rookies anymore when looking for a repleacement for Kimi?

    “Davide is on the list, but to bring a driver to the grid with no experience is a huge step for them,” he explained.
    “I did it twice already with [Vitaly] Petrov and a semi-rookie Grosjean and I think I’ve had enough to be honest with you.”

    1. Well spotted indeed hehehe !

    2. Eric didn’t hire Kevin, its not his fault he has to work with a rookie anymore

  3. Just curious, was the interview conducted by Keith/F1F or is it sourced from elsewhere? Doesn’t explicitly mention what’s the case here.


    1. My guess based on the past practice at McLaren, is that this was a telephone session with several invited members of the press. So It was likely not a 1 on 1 interview, but certainly not something copied from somewhere else or just taken from material McLaren just sent out as PR material Himmat.

  4. I hope Mclaren will bounce back. I was their fan back then when I started watching F1 in 1999 and continued until Raikkonen went to Ferrari. I might get back to their fan base after Lewis exited Mclaren, but they just have to show they are still a championship winning team, the same that was when Hakkinen was driving for them. 2015 could become a turning stone, because Mcalren will be ther exclusive engine suplier and they should grab this opportunity with both hands.

    Drivers should be kept, however. Magnussen as a rookie is doing a fine job and has lots of potential. Meanwhile Button shows just why he is a world champion (in the past I criticized a lot this driver).

  5. “Let’s say” seems to be Bouillier’s “for sure”. Never noticed it before, but now I think it’ll be all I can focus on when he talks!

    1. I simply cant see over his french accent . I really have to strain my ears to zunderztand what ze heas zaying.

    2. Paul (@frankjaeger)
      28th May 2014, 19:07

      @gwan Haha i’ve noticed that. Nothing beats Massa’s “you know” in my book. He’s broke double figures before in a single interview

      @hamilfan Tell me about it man. I think Toto Wolff and Boullier should be given ‘most stereotypical accent’ awards

      1. @frankjaeger Haha true . I found it funny that someone on youtube actually made the totonator say “I’ll be back ” . Typical Arnold accent

      2. @frankjaeger ha, yeah my boyfriend lived in Austria for six years and said no-one talked like Arnie, but was forced to admit otherwise when I played him an interview with Toto Wolff :)

    3. Obviously.

    4. “At the end of the day”

  6. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    28th May 2014, 17:12

    And yet, by comparison, Kvyat is not suffering “rookie syndrome”: a driver with a slight fraction of the high power chassis experience of Magnussen, and a driver I thought simply wasn’t ready for F1 before the season started. To clarify, Kvyat has not competed in GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5, and had already successfully made a huge power leap when he arrived in GP3 last year having just competed a triumphant 2012 Formula Renault 2.0 Alps campaign. Magnussen’s two seasons of FR3.5 and testing experience should have made him a “plug ‘n’ play” driver not susceptible the “rookie syndrome” Kvyat has avoided so brilliantly. With Kevin’s recent form so average, much like Vandoorne’s has been in GP2 following his miraculous debut win, the Magnussen-Vandoorne line up for the Honda era is now looking like a premature prediction; with Perez’s excellent showings versus Hulkenberg verifying Button’s continually high level of performance. That said, Hulkenberg took a while to “bed in” in 2010, so the same will likely be the case with Magnussen, but it is not looking like Kevin is anywhere near ready to lead McLaren into the Honda era, as I’m sure some within the team expected him to be.

    1. @william-brierty

      with Perez’s excellent showings versus Hulkenberg verifying Button’s continually high level of performance.

      I’m glad you put it like that, because I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective before.

      Obviously, we cannot say that the Perez of today is equal to the Perez of last year, but if we consider that Perez and Button were of similar standing last year (if not Button marginally ahead in terms of performance), and that Perez is certainly holding his own versus Hulkenberg (albeit with a damn sight more bad luck, and some patches of poor driving, a la Monaco), we do have to conclude that Button is still doing a solid job at the team.

      And I completely agree with you that removing either Button or Magnussen next year, in favour of Vandoorne, is probably not wise.
      Give Magnussen one more year to bed himself into the team, learn the tricks of the trade a bit more, before considering him as the lead driver upon Button’s departure.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        28th May 2014, 18:21

        Whilst Button’s results appear underwhelming on paper, and it has been tempting to suggest that he, unlike Hamilton in 2009 or Alonso in 2012, has failed to rise above poor cars, but it takes but a moment of logical contemplation to remember the fact that he is still doing a great job. Last year I would say he comfortably had an edge on the highly-rated Perez in race trim, a driver that is now taking the challenge to the known future megastar Hulkenberg, and is now beating perhaps one of finest junior category prospects since Hulkenberg himself.

        If Button can maintain an advantage over Kevin this season that will be two impressive scalps in successive season, especially with Button’s triumph over Hamilton in 2011 in recent memory. With his current level of performance Button is well on the way to securing the seat that many thought was under threat just a few months prior.

        Vandoorne is the interesting factor. The guy is clearly super talented, having won his first race in both the FR3.5 and GP2 series, and although ART has been struggling in GP2 this year I still feel confident that we will see Stoffel somewhere on the grid next year; especially having impressed so much in the Spanish test for McLaren. The question is where on the grid. A subsidized seat at Force India or Marussia? Or in place of Magnussen following what would have to be a profoundly disappointing rookie season? The later is unlikely with Perez too being expelled after a single season, but Vandoorne must surely rank as the most likely of this year’s batch of juniors to make the step up to F1.

        1. I feel you are being disingenuous at best, @william-brierty. Or perhaps just looking rose-tintedly at Button’s results. I am no fan of Button, I am making that known up front, but I don’t hate him either.

          Last year I would say he comfortably had an edge on the highly-rated Perez in race trim…” Who rated Perez highly, exactly, apart from McLaren in their screaming haste to replace the departing Hamilton? I’m thinking no one. And the average finishing positions were 9th for Button and 10th for Perez. Button did finish with a 24pt gap between himself and Perez, so there’s that.

          “..a driver [Perez] that is now taking the challenge to the known future megastar Hulkenberg..” Except Hulkenberg is 27pts clear already. Three more than what was deemed comfortable between Button and Perez.

          “..and [Button] is now beating perhaps one of finest junior category prospects since Hulkenberg himself.” Yes, Button, a veteran of many years and races in F1, is beating his rookie teammate by 10pts.

          Button, who had the 2013 car built around him, beat his new teammate Perez by 24pts, which was “comfortable.” He is beating his rookie teammate by 10pts, even though Button would have had much more input in the design and time in the simulator last year. And Hulkenberg ahead by 27pts at 6 races in is described as Perez taking the fight to him, but it isn’t Magnusson taking the fight to Button at nearly one third the points gap?

          Button’s time is up. He may not lose his seat this year for whatever reason. But if he keeps it, it won’t be based on current display of talent.

          1. +1

            Couldn’t agree any more. I haven’t seen a driver more underwhelming than Jenson Button, yet held in such high regard

        2. future megastar Hulkenberg

          I’m wondering how long we’ll have to wait before we see him in a top team though …

          Also the current form of Vandoorne doesn’t reflect his talent, especially when you compare it to last year. Something else must be wrong …

          And I’m glad Kvyat proved himself worth of F1 and he’s promoting wasn’t premature or due to the arrival of the Russian GP.

  7. I think Magnussen just has ‘McLaren Syndrome’.

    1. @electrolite Ahhhh ….. I am cross with you . You beat me to it ;-) . damn !

  8. I think Magnussen has done well considering he’s the only rookie to come from 3.5. We saw drivers have teething problems as such in their first season or even longer, like in the case of Grosjean. The speed is clearly there, he just needs refining, he’s younger than what Hamilton was when he joined after all…

    1. Agreed. If you think highly enough of a driver to put them, as a rookie, into a top team/car, then you should also give them the time to perform.

  9. Is “Let’s say” the new “for sure’?

    1. @geemac Let’s say we don’t know for sure.

    2. @geemac @xtwl

      At the end of the day ,Obviously , Let’s say we don’t know for sure , y’no.

  10. It just seems Mclaren has become a team with too much data but not enough imagination. They need to find some inspiration and innovate, because the past 3 the only performance I’ve seen is in front of the media.

  11. I think they are being quite hard on Kevin. Hulkenberg would not have gone past had it not been for the unsafe release and following confusion. That said it was quite the disappointment to see him lose out to Hulk.
    The end of the race proved problematic for Kevin as well because of power unit failure and a “questionable” move from Kimi. A bit of luck and he would have ended 5th or 6th. So I do not think that it is only down to Kevin – and if we were going to be hard on him then it should have been in Malaysia and Bahrain were he was actually nowhere. I think Kevin could prove star of the future – quite soon that is.

  12. Well… Magnussen hasn’t been all that bad. He made a couple of rookie errors by tagging other cars in a couple of races, and lost points as a consequence. But he still did get a P2 on his debut race, and has still looked more impressive than Button

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