Renault F1 Team have officially announced Kevin Magnussen as their second driver for the 2016 Formula 1 Season after sponsorship payment negotiations with Pastor Maldonado fell through.
Maldonado had a lucrative sponsorship agreement with PDVSA, a petrol company in his native Venezuela, thought to be worth somewhere in the region of $46Million per year, but it appears the change of ownership at Lotus/Renault, combined with PDVSA’s president Rafael Ramírez moving from his position in a government re-shuffle in 2014, has prompted an annulment of the contract.
The Venezuelan has been at the Enstone-based team (formerly known as Lotus) for the past two years. He joined F1 in 2011 with Williams, and made history with them in 2012 by winning the Spanish Grand Prix. It was not only his first win, but the first win in F1 history for a Venezuelan driver, and the first for Williams in seven-and-a-half years.
However, he also picked up a reputation for colliding with drivers, spawning websites such as Has Maldonado Crashed Today? and the Twitter account Did Maldonado Crash. His most notable collision(s) were arguably with Esteban Gutierrez, whom he flipped upside-down at the 2014 Bahrain GP, and Lewis Hamilton, with whom he collided on the penultimate lap of the 2012 European GP while both fought for a podium position.
His replacement, Magnussen, last participated in F1 when he deputised for Fernando Alonso at last year’s Australian Grand Prix, although his McLaren-Honda engine expired before he even made it to the grid. Before that, he had a stellar 2014 campaign with the British team alongside Jenson Button, the highlight of which was a second-place podium finish on his debut in Australia.
Magnussen has looked a shoo-in to replace Alonso or Button at McLaren as the pair come towards the end of their F1 careers, but he was unceremoniously dropped from McLaren’s roster on his birthday late last year.
It means that Renault will have one of the most inexperienced driver pairings in the sport in 2016, with Magnussen partnering 2014 GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer. Magnussen will resume the use of car number 20, while Palmer will take the vacant number 30 which he has used in test and practice sessions.