Jolyon Palmer: F1’s new boy

Motor Sport News - - F1 Preview: Themes -

It’s been a long wait for a new Bri­tish driver to land in a com­pet­i­tive F1 seat, and few could ar­gue that Jolyon Palmer is un­der-qual­i­fied for his shot with Re­nault’s re­formed team.

No dis­re­spect to more re­cent Bri­tish F1 hope­fuls, Max Chilton and Will Stevens, but their Manor-marus­sias were never go­ing to trou­ble the scor­ers on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Palmer has the chance to do ex­actly that this year, al­beit he may have to wait un­til Re­nault is re­ally up and run­ning again.

How­ever, Palmer brings good ex­pe­ri­ence to the team. Hav­ing lifted the GP2 ti­tle in 2014, he found the F1 door closed, so in­stead opted to play the long game in a de­vel­op­ment driver role for Lotus. It meant he gained sig­nif­i­cant F1 test­ing mileage both in the sim and in the flesh – Palmer ran in 13 free prac­tice ses­sions last year.

Palmer is a known quan­tity to the team, but is lack­ing in mileage in the new RS16 as his test­ing ses­sions were less than ideal – he re­ferred to them as “a lit­tle dis­as­trous” af­ter do­ing less than half of team-mate Kevin Mag­nussen’s lap to­tal dur­ing test­ing due to var­i­ous me­chan­i­cal is­sues.

Mag­nussen, in con­trast, en­dured a frus­trat­ing 2015, with lit­tle seat time and no race pro­gramme with Mclaren be­fore be­ing ditched on his birth­day. Both driv­ers will be out with points to prove.

Fer­rari set it­self some mod­est tar­gets last year, and ticked all the boxes by achiev­ing the three grands prix wins it wanted. This year, it wants so much more.

The SF16-H en­cap­su­lates the up­swing in Fer­rari’s at­ti­tude. From be­ing at a loss as to how to stem the Sil­ver­wash of Merc, the team built firm foun­da­tions in 2015 – which was the first year when there was a fresh broom swept through the tech­ni­cal depart­ment – and gain­ing Se­bas­tian Vet­tel was the ic­ing on the cake.

The car is, as the team de­scribes, “bold” with a big em­pha­sis placed on cool­ing and air­flow.

The speed is there too: the Scud­e­ria has topped the timesheets over­all from test­ing, al­though dif­fer­ent tyre com­pounds and set-ups can of­ten present a skewed pic­ture. But tails are up in the red cor­ner. Vet­tel is hun­gry and Fer­rari has pre­dicted a full-on cham­pi­onship chal­lenge this sea­son.

It will cer­tainly be closer to Mercedes this year. The gap last term was sig­nif­i­cant but Fer­rari will hope­fully be in a po­si­tion to chal­lenge more of­ten. Even Fer­rari says it “wants to be in the ti­tle fight”. A re­al­is­tic am­bi­tion: it sounds just about where it will end up.

Car: Str11en­gine: Fer­rari 059/4 First GP: Bahrain 2006 Races: 185 Wins: 1 Poles: 1 Fastest laps: 0 Points: 266 Driv­ers’ ti­tles: 0 Con­struc­tors’ ti­tles: 0

NUM­BER 33 MAX VER­STAP­PEN (NED)

De­but: Aus­tralia 2015 Races: 19 Wins: 0 Poles: 0 Fastest laps: 0 Points: 49 Best re­sult: 4th

NUM­BER 55 CAR­LOS SAINZ (ESP)

De­but: Aus­tralia 2015 Races: 19 Wins: 0 Poles: 0 Fastest laps: 0 Points: 18 Best re­sult: 7th

Palmer has ex­pe­ri­ence and Bri­tish sup­port too

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