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Denmark has produced several Formula One drivers over the years, but only a handful have left their mark on the sport’s history. In this article, we take a look at the 3 most successful Danish F1 drivers and their careers, as well as analyse the potential of junior formulas drivers from Denmark, who may make it into F1 in the upcoming years.

Kevin Magnussen – Best Danish F1 Driver

Without a doubt, Kevin Magnussen is the most accomplished of Danish F1 drivers to date. The son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen, Kevin made his debut in 2014 with McLaren and immediately impressed by qualifying fourth and finishing on the podium in his first race in Australia. He spent three seasons with McLaren and Renault before joining the Haas F1 Team in 2017, where he drove until the end of 2020.

In 2022, Magnussen made a return to Haas on a multi-year contract. He scored the team’s first points after two difficult seasons and took a shock pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix thanks to a stellar lap done just before the rain hit, and made the track much slower for all the other competitors – the first for a Danish driver in F1 history.

As of June, 2024, Magnussen has started 173 Grand Prix races with one pole position, one podium finish and 188 career points. His best championship finish is 9th in 2018 while driving for Haas. Still only 31 years old, Magnussen has plenty of good years ahead and will be looking to build on his success in the coming seasons.

Key Stats

  • Formula One seasons: 2014-2016, 2017-2020, 2022-present
  • Teams: McLaren, Renault, Haas
  • Starts: 173 (as of June 2024)
  • Wins: 0
  • Podiums: 1
  • Poles: 1
  • Points: 188
  • Best championship finish: 9th (2018)

Jan Magnussen

The father of Kevin Magnussen, Jan Magnussen competed in Formula One over three separate stints between 1995 and 1998. He made his debut driving for McLaren as an injury replacement in the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix, where he finished 10th on debut.

After racing in American CART series in 1996, Magnussen joined the newly-formed Stewart Grand Prix team in 1997 and 1998 alongside Rubens Barrichello. Though the results didn’t always show it, Magnussen displayed good speed and technical ability during his time with Stewart.

His final Formula One points finish came in the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix, where he finished 6th to score the single point of his career. In total, Magnussen contested 25 Grands Prix between 1995 and 1998, scoring just 1 championship point.

He has since gone on to have a successful sports car racing career, winning his class at the Le Mans 24 Hours four times and continuing to compete into his late 40s. Although with no success in Formula 1, Jan Magnussen is one of the best Danish motorsport drivers

Key Stats

  • Formula One seasons: 1995, 1997-1998
  • Teams: McLaren, Stewart
  • Entries: 25
  • Starts: 24
  • Wins: 0
  • Podiums: 0
  • Points: 1
  • Best championship finish: 17th (1998)

Tom Belsø

The first Danish Formula One driver was Tom Belsø, who participated in 5 Grands Prix between 1973 and 1974. He attempted to qualify a Frank Williams Racing Cars Iso-Marlboro at the 1973 Swedish Grand Prix but failed to make the grid.

In 1974 Belsø entered four races but only qualified at the South African and Swedish Grand Prix. He suffered a first lap clutch failure in South Africa, before finishing 8th on debut at the Swedish race for his best result.

While his Formula One career was short-lived, and Tom Belsø certainly is not the best Danish F1 driver, he is still remembered as the first F1 driver from Denmark, who paved the way for other Danish drivers to enter the sport in later years. Outside of F1, he was the 1969 Scandinavian Touring Car Champion.

Key Stats

  • Formula One seasons: 1973-1974
  • Team: Frank Williams Racing Cars
  • Entries: 5
  • Starts: 2
  • Best finish: 8th (1974 Swedish GP)
  • Points: 0

The Next Generation of Danish F1 Drivers

At present, Kevin Magnussen is carrying the flag for Denmark in Formula One. But the future may look bright, with talents such as Christian Lundgaard was close to being in Formula 1 and Frederik Vesti still hopes to bounce back from his unsuccessful 2024 start of the season and make a difference in the second half to fight for the F1 seat.

Lundgaard, finished 7th in Formula 2 in 2021 and secured a Formula One test and reserve driver role with Alpine in 2022. Although he missed on gettin into Formula 1, he’s racing in the US in the IndyCar Series, where he won a race in 2023, and took a podium in 2024

22-year-old Frederik Vesti is another bright prospect currently racing in Formula 2. The Mercedes junior driver had a really good rookie season in F2, and in his second year came 2nd in the Championship, despite winning 6 races. His lack of consistency and numerous DNFs ultimately cost him the title, and probably much more likely Formula 1 seat. In 2024, Vesti raced in 24h Le Mans in the LMP2 class and finished 5th in his category.

With the next generation of talented Danish drivers rising through the ranks, it may not be long before we see more Danes competing at the pinnacle of motorsport.

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