Palmer ends Renault career as Hamilton starts on pole
Today’s Japanese Grand Prix, for which Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole, will be Jolyon Palmer’s last for Renault, it was confirmed yesterday.
The Briton will be replaced by Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jnr for the last four races of the season. Sainz was due to join from Toro Rosso at the end of the season, but Renault said in a statement that the team and Palmer had agreed to end their relationship by mutual consent after today’s race.
“The Japanese Grand Prix will be my last race for Renault. It’s been an extremely challenging season and I’ve been through a lot in the last three years, but it’s been a tremendous journey overall with the team,” Palmer said.
“My immediate focus is now on achieving the best possible result in the Japanese GP, and then I can assess my options for the future.” Palmer said last weekend in Malaysia that he had a number of “options” for next season, but did not elaborate on what they were. He did indicate that he would prefer not to race in the United States.
Toro Rosso moved quickly to confirm their line-up. Daniil Kvyat will come in from the cold after he was replaced in Malaysia by Pierre Gasly, who will stay for the rest of the season.
In yesterday’s qualifying session, Hamilton set a qualifying lap record of 1min 27.319sec in his Mercedes as he claimed the 71st pole of his career – and his first at Suzuka. The 32-year-old, who leads Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 34 points, said it felt incredible to have such a good feeling in the car at an iconic track. “The car is crazy here,” he grinned. “Mind-blowing. I wish you could feel what I feel. It’s insane the speeds, the way you are able to throw the car around, like the craziest rollercoaster ride. It’s going to be a different view from the front. Naturally the Ferraris will be rapid in race pace, but I plan on keeping them behind me.” Vettel qualified alongside him on the front row despite setting what was only the third-fastest time of the day, with Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas taking a five-place grid penalty for a change of gearbox. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was hit with an incredible 35-place grid penalty for breaking curfew, using an eighth engine, a 10th turbo, a 10th MGU-H, an eighth MGU-K, a seventh battery store and a sixth control electronics unit.
Last hurrah: Jolyon Palmer will leave Renault after Suzuka and is being replaced by Carlos Sainz