Vandoorne can challenge Button – Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen believes McLaren-Honda reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne can challenge Jenson Button at the Bahrain Grand Prix following his late call up to replace the injured Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard was ruled out of the Sakhir event after he did not pass the FIA’s mandatory medical examination, with the governing body saying Alonso had not sufficiently recovered from his heavy Melbourne crash.

Having made his Formula One debut alongside Button in 2014, Magnussen ought to know what it is like to compete against the 2009 world champion. Asked whether Vandoorne, who incidentally replaced him as Woking’s reserve driver, could give Button a hard time, the Renault racer replied: “I think he can.

“I know he deserves to be here so I’m happy to see he got a shot. It can be frustrating knowing you have to give the car back, whether it will be one race or two races I don’t know.

“You feel a bit awkward because you can’t really look forward. You just have to do your best in the time being. It’s a massive opportunity for anyone to get a chance in Formula One, it’s really really big. Not many people get a chance, so I hope he can enjoy it.”

Magnussen and Vandoorne’s careers have been closely intertwined since the pair fought for the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 Series title as McLaren juniors. Last year, it was the Dane who had to step up the plate when Alonso could not race in Australia after suffering a concussion in pre-season testing.

“That was different,” Magnussen commented. “I had maybe 20 laps in Barcelona then went to Australia with a car that I hadn’t really worked on or been involved with. But it’s still pretty straightforward.

“I had a season already. It’s not that bad. They have a really good simulator. My first race was quite good – I don’t think it’s a massive problem really. [Vandoorne] is good enough to be in Formula One so he will have a good race I’m sure.

“Maybe with the radio ban now there might be some more he has to remember, or get on top of, but in terms of driving the car, doing the race and being fast, I’m sure it will be no problem for him.”

Despite an encouraging rookie season with McLaren, Magnussen had to step down to a reserve role following Alonso's return to Woking and was let go by the British team last October.

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