x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

McLaren and Force India could squabble over F1 driver

McLaren may want to loan Danish talent Kevin Magnussen, part of their drivers' programme, out to Force India who are undecided on line-up for 2014.

Kevin Magnussen, right, is unlikely to team up with Jenson Button in 2014 despite receiving high praise from McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Kevin Magnussen, right, is unlikely to team up with Jenson Button in 2014 despite receiving high praise from McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Bob Fernley, the Force India deputy team principal, and Martin Whitmarsh, his McLaren counterpart, face a potential squabble over the future of rising star Kevin Magnussen.

The Dane, along with fellow 21 year old in Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, are both part of McLaren’s young driver programme.

The duo are also first and second in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship, with Magnussen poised to clinch the title.

According to Whitmarsh, both deserve to be in Formula One given their talent, but it appears he is unwilling to the throw either driver in at the deep end with his own team.

That has left Whitmarsh discussing with other team principals the possibility of them taking on Magnussen or Vandoorne, with the former the favourite to land a seat first.

“We have tried at Force India, Lotus, and Marussia. We have to get them into F1,” said Whitmarsh.

“They are both really, really good guys and both will get into F1. We have a duty of care to get them there. They are pretty special.”

Given McLaren’s technical partnership with Force India, a placement with the Silverstone-based marque would appear ideal.

Whitmarsh insists, however, he is not going to hold them to ransom, adding: “They want to extend [the deal], but we haven’t agreed to that.

“But at the same time, I don’t want leverage. One way or another we will find a way.”

Fernley, however, has made clear his feelings on the subject as he said: “McLaren have to look at it themselves really.

“If Magnussen is a wonderful driver, why not take the chance? I’d be very excited.”

Force India are reviewing their options with regard to their line-up for next year, with Vijay Mallya, the co-owner, unlikely to make any decision until after the season has concluded.

With both Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil struggling for form heading into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, neither driver is guaranteed his place for 2014.

Undoubtedly, Pirelli’s change to the construction of its tyres in the wake of the tyre blowouts in the British Grand Prix has severely hampered Force India.

The team are, however, fully aware of what both of their drivers are capable of, although Fernley concedes they would be foolish not to keep their options open.

“We’ve a situation coming up where there are going to be a number of very good drivers available,” added Fernley.

“The good thing from Force India’s point of view is Vijay’s always taken the best drivers he could afford. I don’t think he’ll change that philosophy.

“So when it comes to him determining the drivers, we will all sit together and we can put our recommendations in, but it’s his decision at the end of the day.”

Fernley is also not ruling out James Calado, the current reserve, as he said: “James is in the mix. He has done a great job up to now.

“I think we are blessed with a great deal of choice on wonderful drivers.”