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Magnussen replaces Perez at McLaren for 2014

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen will replace Mexican Sergio Perez and race for McLaren alongside Jenson Button next season, the Formula One team said in a statement on Thursday.

"We're delighted that Kevin will be joining Jenson as a McLaren Formula One race driver for 2014," said team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

The 21-year-old, son of former McLaren and Stewart racer Jan Magnussen, will be the first rookie to make his F1 debut with McLaren since Britain's Lewis Hamilton in 2007.

Like Hamilton, the Dane has been backed by McLaren through the junior series and this year won the Formula Renault 3.5 title.

Magnussen, whose father started only one race with McLaren in 1995 before joining Stewart in 1997 in a career that swiftly fizzled out, said he was "absolutely overjoyed" with the decision.

"It's been my dream to drive for McLaren ever since I was a small kid, and it's no exaggeration to say that I've dedicated almost every day of my life to achieving the goal of becoming a McLaren Formula One driver," he said.

"I won't let you down, guys," added the Dane.

Button, the 2009 champion, will be starting his fifth season with the team and provides plenty of experience in a year with major changes.

The engines are changing from the current V8s to a turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 with energy recovery systems and all drivers will be facing a new challenge.

"In Jenson, I have absolutely the ideal team mate," said Magnussen. "He's extremely quick, obviously, but he's also very experienced and superbly capable from a technical perspective.

"He's a Formula One world champion, which is what one day I also hope to become, and I'm determined to learn as much as I can from him."

Whitmarsh said McLaren had high hopes for their new recruit.

"Every time he's tested our Formula One car, he's been very quick and very methodical, and his feedback has been first-class," he said.

The appointment came as no surprise, with Perez - only two years older than Magnussen - confirming on Wednesday in a letter to his fans on Twitter that he would be leaving the team after just one year.

(The story was refiled to fix headline)

(Editing by Justin Palmer and Clare Fallon)

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