PARIS, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Danish driver Kevin Magnussen thanked Renault for saving his Formula One career after the French carmaker announced on Wednesday that he will race for them this season.
Cast aside by McLaren last October after a year as a reserve, Magnussen replaces Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in a deal that was put together in recent weeks and finalised only on Tuesday.
Maldonado was ditched after his backers, the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, turned off the money taps.
”This is a massive opportunity,“ Magnussen told reporters at the Renault Technocentre outside Paris. ”Not many drivers get a second chance and I’ve been given a second chance and a proper chance. I can’t say how happy I am.
”Two years out would have been the end. If you are world champion or something, you might be able to (come back) but in my position, being out for two years would have been the end of my Formula One career.
“This was really make or break. Luckily I made it.”
Two years ago, the son of ex-F1 racer Jan seemed destined for a dazzling career with one of the sport’s great teams after finishing runner-up in his debut grand prix for McLaren in Australia.
No McLaren driver has stood on the grand prix podium since then, excluding the high jinks of Fernando Alonso -- the man who replaced him in the lineup -- and Jenson Button in Brazil last year when they stepped up just for a photograph.
Magnussen batted away a loaded question about whether he was happy to be away from McLaren’s Woking factory, saying only that he was pleased to be a part of a new team and his former employers had played no part in the deal.
He felt far more relaxed, however.
“I felt a lot of pressure the first time around with McLaren. I feel pressure now but in a much more positive way. I actually feel more ready,” he said.
Winning a race may be a distant dream for a team picking itself up after a tough year fraught with financial difficulties, but Magnussen was optimistic.
”I‘m here for this year for sure and the future is open,“ he added. ”My ambition is to be with this team when we start winning.
“I think it’s important to be realistic about where we are. It is a completely new set-up. But Renault has done this before. We will take it race by race but push as hard as we can.”
The season starts in Australia on March 20. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)