Jolyon Palmer: F1’s new boy
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