McLaren's Magnussen headlines 2014 rookies

In these days of the so-called 'pay driver', it is refreshing to see a Formula One team provide a rookie with an opportunity on talent alone rather than how much cash he can pull together.

Kevin Magnussen

When McLaren opted to dispense with the services of Sergio Perez late last season and hand reserve Kevin Magnussen his chance, it is fair to say it caught the majority in the paddock by surprise.

In his debut season with the team following his arrival from Sauber, Perez had seemingly done little wrong, especially after being given a car that will go down as one of the worst in McLaren's history.

There were however constant whispers about his lack of feedback, most prominently his failure to diagnose and correct car issues.

Whether that is true or not, the Mexican found himself surplus to requirements and ditched in favour of the young Dane, who is the son of Jan Magnussen, a man who also made his F1 debut with McLaren - back in 1995 - before spending a year and a half with Stewart GP.

Although Jan Magnussen failed to fulfil his potential in F1, his 21- year-old son is determined to make the most of his opportunity.

Magnussen has become ingrained in McLaren since he was inducted into the team's young driver programme a few years ago, and since winning the 2013 World Series by Renault title has left no stone unturned in his bid to quickly acclimatise to life in F1.

"I've just had a singular focus: it's been about immersing myself within the organisation, with the people, and getting to grips with everything I'll face when I finally sit in the cockpit at my first race," said Magnussen.

"It's no secret I live in Woking and I go to the MTC (McLaren Technology Centre) every day.

"So I've spent every available day working, either with my engineers, with the team management, or with the trainers at MTC, building those relationships, getting to grips with the car, the style of driving, the cockpit and control systems, and improving my fitness.

"It's been a constant learning curve, but fun and satisfying to be able to do it with a group of people who work so closely with you.

"It's been relentless, but I've enjoyed the discipline and focus of the winter."

Magnussen's mindset has not been lost on McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale who said of his new driver: "I see a raw, unfettered enthusiasm and a fearsome work ethic.

"His arrival has been a terrific motivator for the entire team, and I've been really pleased and impressed by the way he's thrown himself into the process."

Like McLaren, Red Bull are also investing this season in talented youth as they have promoted Daniil Kvyat from their junior driver programme, with the young Russian to compete for Toro Rosso.

The 19-year-old was a thoroughly convincing winner of GP3 last year, notably scoring victories in the final three feature races of the season at Spa, Monza and in Abu Dhabi.

The fact Kvyat has completely bypassed GP2 and been thrown straight into F1 underlines Red Bull's faith in the teenager, who hails from Ufa, the capital of the largest republic in Russia, Bashkortostan.

Kvyat, who has replaced Daniel Ricciardo at Faenza-based Toro Rosso following the Australian's promotion to Red Bull, will partner Jean-Eric Vergne.

Question marks naturally hang over Kvyat, but he feels ready for the coming challenge.

He said: "Being a rookie means there's a steep learning curve.

"But the bright side of this year's regulation change is that all the drivers will be getting used to a new way of driving, starting from zero. Anyway, I have always liked a big challenge.

"The team hasn't set me any specific targets, so its just a case of getting on top of my game as quickly as possible."

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko insists Kvyat was the right choice ahead of Antonio Feliz da Costa, who many thought would get the nod, and Carlos Sainz Jr.

"We looked at what's best for Red Bull and Toro Rosso in the medium term," said Marko.

"All the people who were involved in the decision said Daniil was the right candidate.

"Through his performances, he was a natural candidate, being fast, being mature. So in the medium term he offers the best perspectives.

"If a young driver proves talent, passion and a high level of work ethic, we give him a chance. That is why we chose Kvyat."

The last of the new batch of rookies for 2014 is Marcus Ericsson, who will be driving for Caterham.

Ericsson is the first Swede to compete in F1 since the year of his birth, 1991, when Stefan Johansson was at the wheel of a Ferrari.

Unlike Magnussen and Kvyat, Ericsson has bankrolled his way into a seat with the Leafield marque, apparently to the tune of £9million.

Ericsson spent four years in GP2, scoring two wins, with a best championship finish sixth last year.

There will be many who will believe Ericsson does not belong in F1, but team principal Cyril Abiteboul is not one who shares that view.

"He is a driver who has prepared perfectly for the step up to F1 with his graduation through the ranks," said Abiteboul.

"Last year in GP2 he won in Germany, scored two poles, three fastest laps and five podiums.

"He's also physically and mentally prepared for what lies ahead, and he will have all the support we can give him across the team to help him fulfil his obvious potential in Formula One."

Ericsson himself is all too aware of the mountainous challenge that awaits.

"To be in F1 is what I've been working for since I first started racing karts when I was nine years old, and now I know I'm ready for the step up," he said.

"We have a big task in front of us, but it's an exciting one, and one both the team and I are ready for."

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