Esteban Gutierrez, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2015

Palmer and Gutierrez: The indifferent choices?

2016 F1 season

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One word seemed to sum up the reaction to the news of Jolyon Palmer and Esteban Gutierrez landing F1 seats for 2016: indifference. It’s hard to remember a ‘silly season’ which involved such a small number of driver changes which were greeted by such apathy.

“Rubbish”, “mediocre” and “pay-driver” were a selection of the terms applied to Palmer by readers here (contrasting the view of many journalists who cheered the “well deserved”, “great news”). Gutierrez’s appointment was called a “waste of a seat” for an “uninspiring” “also-ran”.

Is this fair? Both drivers are past champions of F1’s preferred feeder categories: Gutierrez took the inaugural GP3 title in 2010 and Palmer claimed the GP2 crown last year – he was also one of your choices for the alternative 2015 F1 grid.

Neither is an easy fit for the term ‘pay-driver’, as both demonstrably have talent as well as the benefit of substantial backers. Gutierrez is the product of the Escuderia Telmex scheme which brought Sergio Perez into F1, while Palmer is the latest addition to the gang of second-generation Formula One drivers.

Jonathan Palmer, Jolyon Palmer, Lotus, Suzuka, 2015
Ex-F1 driver Jonathan Palmer aided son Jolyon’s career
His father Jonathan Palmer drove for a succession of back-of-the-grid F1 teams in the eighties. At Brands Hatch in 1986 Palmer, previously a practising doctor, came to the aid of stricken rival Jacques Laffite when he suffered serious leg injuries in a first-lap crash. Eighteen years later Palmer bought the circuit along with three other UK tracks, and went on to launch the FIA’s short-lived Formula Two championship

Jolyon competed in the inaugural 2009 season and the following year finished runner-up to champion Dean Stoneman. It’s true most drivers would struggle to assemble the budget for four seasons of GP2 – plus a reported quarter of a million pounds per practice session at Lotus this year – but Palmer has delivered on that investment, beating Felipe Nasr to the GP2 title last year and impressing Lotus with his testing runs.

Gutierrez is getting something even fewer racing drivers enjoy: a second chance at Formula One. Having occasionally impressed in his 2011 GP2 debut, his return the following year was a disappointment and he trailed rookie team mate James Calado most of the way.

His promotion to Sauber the following year was too soon, the car was uncompetitive for much of the year and in Nico Hulkenberg he was up against a fast rival with much to prove who utterly routed him. It got worse in 2014 as the team struggled with an uncompetitive Ferrari power unit and a heavy chassis. A testing role at Ferrari beckoned when Sauber let Gutierrez go at the end of the year.

Limited testing makes Formula One is a tough discipline for inexperienced drivers these days. While the likes of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr can grind out thousands of laps on the Red Bull simulator, Sauber does not have one, which left Gutierrez at a disadvantage.

Felipe Massa had a ragged debut season with Sauber, spent a year testing with Ferrari, and came back having added discipline to his natural speed. He went on to become a race winner and championship contender. Gutierrez has had the opportunity to do the same over the past 12 months, and his comeback next year with Haas will reveal whether this rough diamond can also be polished.

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Intriguingly, Palmer and Gutierrez will be going up against current Lotus team mates Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado next year. Gutierrez will have to contend with Grosjean’s formidable one-lap pace while Palmer is up against a race-winner with a reputation for recklessness.

It’s not hard to see why many would like to see drivers like dominant GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne and similarly dominant Formula Renault 3.5 champion Oliver Rowland get a break in F1. But with only Manor’s seats yet to be accounted for, and none of F1’s elder statesmen heading for retirement at the moment, opportunities are thin on the ground this year.

And with the smallest teams facing severe economic pressures resulting from decisions taken by those running the sport, those opportunities will inevitably go first to those who are funded as well as fast.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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72 comments on “Palmer and Gutierrez: The indifferent choices?”

  1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    6th November 2015, 12:44

    Okay, here’s what I picked up – Sauber doesn’t have a simulator while Toro Rosso does. Is that true? Which teams have access to a simulator and which ones don’t?

    How on earth is that better than limiting track testing???

    1. Toro Rosso, Sauber and Manor are the only teams who don’t have a simulator.

      1. i am pretty sure TR has a simulator

        1. They use Red Bull’s simulator. So they do and they don’t.

        2. Wouldn’t Toro Rosso use Red Bull’s simulator?

        3. Nope, the drivers use the RBR one in Milton Keynes.

      2. As @geemac mentions, Toro Rosso does not have its own simulator, but its not a problem because its drivers use the top notch Red Bull simulator. Sauber doesn’t have one at all, although they might have had oppertunities to use Ferrari’s simulator. And Manor (as Marussia) had a deal with McLaren to use their simulator, but I am pretty sure that is not the case anymore this year.

        1. And while Alonso was with Ferrari he had his own personal Ferrari simulator in his home.

    2. @bascb @geemac @thetick @freelittlebirds I always found it incredibly weird that Sauber doesn’t own a simulator of their own. Even through partnerships with other teams, the fact that they are located at Hinwill, which is neither Italy nor the UK, surely limits their opportunities aswell.

      Back in the BMW days they had one of the fastest computers ever created if I remember correctly (I think I read it somewhere), but Sauber has been an independent team since 2010, how come they don’t own one?

      It’s not new for them to not exploit all the opportunities they have. Remember back in 2004, when 3rd drivers were allowed to run a car for themselves for teams that finished behind 4th or 5th place in the constructors championship the year before? Sauber was the only team not running a 3rd car, which made sense even from a marketing point: friday sessions were always topped by a 3rd driver from BAR or McLaren.

      1. I think the answer to that is pretty easy @fer-no65. Ever since Peter Sauber took it upon him to keep the team going after BMW dumped it, money has been a huge issue. And getting a simulator costs a lot of it that they simple need to build the cars and pay the staff

  2. Time will tell if Palmer’s “right” to be in F1 is proven, although GP2 champ is no small feat and his pace on the fridays aren’t bad necessarily, you can’t refute the fact the foremost reason he got that Lotus seat is because the millions he brings. His racing experience and achievements is likely why Lotus picked him above others.

    Gutierrez had two full seasons in F1 and has shown nothing that justifies his place in this sport. His GP2 adventure wasn’t particularly impressive either. Gutierrez is a text-bookpay driver, only his Telmex money ensures his place in the pinnacle of motorsport.

    If teams want budget limitations, there should also be limitations on the amount a driver is allowed to bring into the team. If the choice is between a penniless talented driver or a rich mediocre driver, the talented one should always be a priority signing.

    1. Wasnt Maldonado some kind of champion aswell? We all hail him as the paysiest of pay drivers.

      What I rather would say.. These drivers have talent that people with money believe in… Its ok we praise Hamilton talent, but do we pay for it?

      Money talks sometimes… The last really bad pay driver I remember was Karthikeyan… But other “pay drivers” seem to be pretty good.

      Is Max as good as Vandoorne? Who knows right?

      But is Vandoorne say 10M€ better than Palmer?

      Would Filipe Massa win championship in this years Mercedes, for way smaller pay than Hamilton?

      We can discuss all we want, but Gutierez and Palmer are acomplished drivers bringing in added value. After year or two their teams will decide if they are worth keeping.

      What will we say then? What if that budgetthey bring makes car 1s faster per lap and they are 0.3s slower than Lewis Hamilton(Lets use him as example of fastest driver money can buy today) Do you take Lewis and have both drivers drive 0.7s slower round a lap because car is poorly developed?

      1. Lewis Hamilton got into F1 not just for his awesome talent but because McLaren bankrolled his junior career. No junior race teams take drivers on pure talent alone they have to pay for their seats. All drivers are pay drivers whilst coming into F1. Asking small teams to go on talent only is like telling small teams to build their own engines. Lauda was a pay driver and if you look at the 1950’s all the drivers came from wealthy backgrounds, I read about Moss, Fangio, Ascari…but not of any drivers who came from a poor factory working family background. Motorsport is not football you cannot participate even at the most basic levels without money.

        Not anyone can just pay money and drive in F1 they have to have money and a lot of talent otherwise we would see lots of obscure sons of Arab royalty and Russian millionaires coming into F1 rather than driving round London in supercars. Palmer is a GP2 champion and deserves his chance, so does Vandoorne but it is what it is and nothing can change this.

        1. And like Max, Jolyne is second generation F1 driver so maybe pedigree can also be a factor? I am sure that Max and Jolyne benefitted enormously from being coached b their fathers. Little known fact: Jonathan Palmer was a F1 Champion in 1987. That year, 2 trophies were presented, one for the turbo charged winner and one for the naturally aspirated winner. The turbo winner was considered the F1 World Champion and the naturally aspirated winner was presented with the Jim Clarke trophy. To me that makes Jonathon a world champion too.

      2. @jureo

        Wasnt Maldonado some kind of champion aswell? We all hail him as the paysiest of pay drivers.

        I think you’re simplifying the general consensus about Maldonado on here. Pastor rightfully won GP2 and the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix; the problem is that he seems to hardly learn from his mistakes. This season might be the first since his Gp2 title campaign where he hasn’t been involved in a whole lot of awkward crashes. The problem isn’t that Maldonado pays for his seat, many people feel that Maldonado would not have gotten as much time in F1 if he had not been backed by as many millions as he is. Grosjean changed a lot since his rocky 2012 season, Maldonado seems to only be a steadier pair of hands this season. Let’s not forget that his recent run of 3 points finishes in a row is a record for Maldonado, who before had never finished in the points twice in a row.

        I can’t speak for everyone, but Maldonado is the type of driver that, in my opinion, would have seen a similar career to Liuzzi had Pastor not been backed. After some promise but a whole lot of disappointment, a silent exit from F1. The money involved prevents that, which gives his career an unfair basis in my eyes. Then again, if he keeps up his current, cleaner style of driving, he could well be a good F1 driver.

        On top of that, pay-driver as a term has always been an odd one. The phenomenon of drivers who have done well in lower classes and then moved on to seats they have to pay for at good teams is relatively new. Even looking at a team like Sauber, they only had Diniz in 1999 and 2000 as paydriver until 2010. The economic downturn around 2008 didn’t really take hold of F1 until 2010/2011, when teams like Renault, Williams and Sauber were suddenly running paying drivers of differing degrees of success.

        1. Excellent point, many great drivers payed their way in to F1, even as recent as few years ago Alonso hauled major Santander backing. So drivers should not be judged by backing.

          Kobayashi most famously was paid by fans to race… Saddly that got him worst seat of the year.

    2. I think Palmer will get a solid chance to prove himself. His championship in GP2 should be enough to show that the talent is there. And against Maldonado who is a bit erratic but can be very fast on his day that will be a nice oppertunity to compare the two.

      Guttierez will probably have a tougher job against Grosjean, then again, its hard to estimate what we can expect from the Haas team as much as it was hard to make any realistic expectations of Lotus Racing’ solid line-up of Trulli and Kovalainen

    3. Ban, restrict, limit, force is almost never a final solution, but temporary. If we really want a long-term solution (without flaws) we need to encourager and incentivate the desired results. Cash awards for best rookie of the year, prizes for best innovation with less money, or even best prizes distribution (by points for example) can help and incentivate to get money by results instead of “sponsorship”.

  3. The ability is adapt to new machinery is mark I usually use to, in my opinion, sort out the quicker drivers from the others. After all, if you can adapt to new machinery quickly it means your not relying on old set-ups from previous seasons or driving styles that are now muscle memory rather than talent. It’s because of this I tend to discard Palmer, who finished last (of those who did a full season) in his début year in a rather unremarkable field. However, as Kobayashi proved, a ‘so-so’ junior career doesn’t always correlate to the same F1 career either, so it’s worth giving Palmer a chance.

  4. The reason most jurnos like the idea of Palmer is another Brit in the series, gives more interest, more people to read their guff.

    And the reason why Palmer (mainly) and Gutierrez won their respective feeder champs was that they had enough money to buy their way into the best teams which makes a significant enough difference even in a one make series.

    1. @tonyyeb Exactly, a DAMS or ART GP2 drive is the most expensive single seater seat outside of F1 – a figure comfortably in seven digits. At least Jolyon had the decency to justify such investment by winning the title.

  5. As someone who always thought that Gutierrez’ struggles were less about an inherent lack of quality as much as simply being thrown into the sport way too early and at a way too young age – just remember how much Alguersuari stank up the joint in 2009 – I am interested to see whether the maturity gained through his Ferrari year will translate in a decent showing against Grosjean.

  6. I think the indifference towards these two drivers can be simply explained by the fact that we all want to see as strong a grid as possible, the very best drivers occupying the seats available. While I’m not of the opinion that Guttierez deserves another shot in F1 after being beaten 51-6 by Hulkenberg over a season, I do think Palmer deserves a shot. I think people would have been fine with him entering F1 if it wouldn’t have been at the cost of better drivers.

    The fundamental problems are that there are not enough seats available, as well as experienced drivers continuing for too long (Raikkonen, possibly even Button and Massa) and drivers paying to compensate for their lack of performance (Maldonado, Ericsson, Stevens).

    If F1 wants to be the real pinnacle of motorsport, it should make sure that more talented drivers get a chance to prove themselves against the big names in the sport. It’s unacceptable for drivers like Vandoorne, Magnussen, Frijns, Da Costa not to get a chance.
    I would say even go as far as saying that the stagnation in the F1 drivers market devalues the title of World Champion; Vettel having 4 and Hamilton having 3 – there is a good chance that wouldn’t have been the case if there would have been tougher competition, Vettel and Hamilton going up against more drivers in the same machinery rather than beating their mentally-broken team mates over and over again. Vettel got a real challenge against Ricciardo. People want to see Verstappen go up against Hamilton. People want to see real competition, top drivers proving their selves year-after-year against upcoming talent.

    1. Maybe @me4me, there should be rule that a F1 driver MUST get at least a top 10 in the final WDC standings in 3 or 4 years. Top 12 or 15 if you feel it sounds unfair for small teams. If the guy never makes it, it must make room for new drivers. I know that wouldn’t dissapear pair drivers, who could make contracts within that time limit, but it could force drivers to push harder to keep their seats in the sport.

  7. They both have no business to be in F1. Winning GP2 in your fourth year is not a big achievement. It means you’re a competent racing driver, but that’s not enough to warrant a place in F1.
    And as for Gutierrez, it’s a huge travesty he’s been given a second chance in F1, yet Calado hadn’t even got a sniff of one, and has to drive in GT. Ferrari are morons, to have Calado and Vergne in the fold yet to promote Guti. They don’t really need Slim’s $$$
    And you cannot seriously be comparing Guti to Massa? Massa was fast but ragged in 2002.Guti was slow AND ragged. Unpolished diamond? More like a turd

  8. Palmer’s funding confuses me. Where is he finding that much cash to fund his drive? Sure his dad is a doctor/ex-f1 driver/track owner, but that surely doesn’t give him enough spare cash to fund 4 seasons of GP2 and pay £250,000 for an hour and a half’s playtime with an F1 car. In my day job I do a fair amount of Real Estate work and you would be surprised how comparatively little things like racetracks and country manors are worth, so I refuse to believe that is the sole source of all this spare cash. Is there something I am missing about his backers?

    1. F1 is centred mainly in GB and sponsors pool around this so a British driver has more chance of getting into F1 than other nations in my opinion.

      1. I’ve got some comfort on this now. The sponsor logos that have gone with him through GP2 are “MSV” which seems to be Jonathan Palmer’s circuit owning business and “Comma” which is a UK based automotive aftermarket parts business it seems. Their website has a news section in which it says “We’re all celebrating at Comma. Jolyon Palmer – our sponsored driver since he began his single-seater racing career in 2007.”

        So there you go. It is still a shed load of money for a relatively unknown business to fork out year on year…

        1. @geemac you’re forgetting that there was enough disposable income in the Palmer family to get Jonathan privately educated, through medical school AND into drives with various cash-strapped F1 teams. Wealth doesn’t just disappear.

    2. It’ll always be a mystery why certain sponsors fund certain drivers and not their seemingly more talented rivals… what you said could also apply to Marcus Ericsson (unless someone who speaks Swedish is aware of a huge, wealthy Ericsson Group or something?), Max Chilton, Will Stevens…

      Unfortunately I have no idea why… but in the absence of a better theory, I generally assume most pay-driver deals with no obvious nationalistic connection are made up of a mixture of personal cash and ‘back scratches’ from their parents’ business contacts.

        1. @lateralus But are they linked? The surname Ericsson simply means ‘son of Eric’ although I do believe the forming of surnames does no longer happen in the same fashion.

        2. Ericsson is a very common surname

      1. Hi, Swede here

        Ericssons drive is financed by a group of wealthy entrepreneurs from Sweden who wanted to see a Swede in F1. Who they are is still confidential, however the owners of Tetra Pak and some other big companies are romoured to be among them

        1. Furthermore, Ericsson doesn’t run any Swedish sponsors on his car. In GP2 he had several swedish sponsos on his car

  9. The constant in those journalists tweets about Jolyon Palmer? All British and all have worked with him and has father before… Palmer is in no way deserving of a seat in F1, but then again neither are five or six others that will race next year. It’s a travesty, but he’s far from the only one.

  10. Indifferent, boring, tedious, you name it. I’m getting less and less bothered by drivers being backed by money as that is the landscape of F1 if you’re not a top team. These drivers are indeed uninspired and except the money keeps flowing I’m not expecting them in F1 by 2018. Same for Ericcson, Nasr, Rossi, Stevens, Merhi, … Why? Because there’ll be younger guns with bigger pockets around the corner as we speak. Seems only Pastor can retain a seat because his are incredibly deep.

    Meanwhile better talent is lost (Frijns, Vandoorne, Magnussen, Rowland, Ocon, …), that’s where the real shame is.

    1. @xtwl but maybe, as Vandoorne, they move to Super Formula, which is very fast too, and if a new pack of very talented rookies go there, both the prestige and the awareness of that category will rise, sponsors will notice that too, a dream win-win. True it would never match F1 popularity, but I am sure I would see that category if was packed with real talent.

  11. Compared to Massa, Gutierrez didn’t have to opportunity of literally unlimited track time testing a world champion car. He might have learned a thing or two about how a top team works and saw behind the curtains of Ferrari. I have no idea why Ferrari saw potential in him when they signed him for reserve/test/third/whatever driver, maybe they are just looking for some extra money in a few years time, and it might worth a try – like a product connection – to lend Gutierrez to a team that they are technologically supporting. If he proves to be strong enough, they could let him drive one of the Ferraris in a few years time (sounds a bit wicked now, i know…), if he can’t show more than in the Sauber-years, he is out again, and no har is done. To Ferrari at least. Driver alternatives should not be mentioned.

    Paydriver or not, Palmer deserves a chance to prove himself. I’m not sure he was the best option for Lotus, but let’s just give him a shot, and we’ll see.

    Despite all the above, I’m really grateful, that certain drivers keep certain teams alive with their money. Without them, a few teams could have gone bankrupt in the near past (a few more, I mean), but this way they have the chance to perform, get stronger, attract sponsors and sign serious contenders.

  12. If I’m entirely honest I rate Palmer about as highly as Will Stevens, Marcus Ericsson or Max Chilton. Talented racing driver, works hard, above average, knows his stuff but on talent alone he’d never have got anywhere near F1 unless he trained as a mechanic. If a driver needs four seasons to win GP2 (and four seasons to even beat a team-mate in the standings), it’s unlikely he’s got what it takes to ever get anywhere near the top. Can see him being a one/two season ‘make up the numbers’ guy before he goes off to do sports cars or something.

    Gutierrez… mostly the same, but he is at least the second-best F1 driver from his country.

    I’m happy enough to give both a chance and I’m forcing myself to give each at least some benefit of the doubt, but as someone who loves F1 it makes my blood boil seeing drivers with a spark of special talent, potential race-winners, being blocked by sponsor bunnies and (very) rich kids.

  13. GUT lost to hul in a good c32. Gut lost to SUT in an awful c33. He is a good driver, but he cannot handle pressure which makes him an horrible f1 driver ( remember Rascasse 2014, a 20 million dollar mistake). He had more opportunities than most because of his wealthy back entourage.

  14. Two complete and utter wastes of F1 seats. Palmer is nothing and Goofierrez is less than that and worse still he looks and sounds like a muppet.

    How many seasons did it take Palmer to win GP2? How did Goofy compare against Hulk in 2013 and Sutil in 2014?

    Further shame in era of shame.

    1. I’m not sure that the way that a driver looks and sounds are particularly relevant to whether or not they could get a seat.

    2. Have to agree with @jules-winfield, I can understand most of the harsh comments on Guti, even myself being from Mexico have so many doubts about him, but your comment shows more like a personal dislike and it is not too objective.

      I hope he proves us all wrong, even though I doubt it.

  15. They are two signings that typify the forces at play in driver market at the mid-to-rear end of the grid: money, commercialism and money. To some a GP3 champion and a GP2 champion might appear logical choices, but that amounts to reading the headline without reading the full article.

    From Haas’ perspective though, Gutierrez is a reasonable choice, allowing them to retain their ties with Ferrari, giving them a foothold in a lucrative Mexican market and as someone to help Grosjean setup the car. Why Ferrari has vested interest in Esteban, however, is immensely puzzling. Why? Because the 2010 GP3 champion’s career plateaued spectacularly as he drove increasingly powerful cars, to such an extent that he was largely anonymous in a 2012 GP2 season he ought to have dominated (since all the talent that year was concentrated in FR3.5). In F1, he made very little progress with his immense throttle application issues. As Magnussen, Vergne and Vandoorne prepare for a season on the sidelines, it is shameful that a driver that showed so little promise should be given a second chance by Ferrari.

    But Palmer is the more vexing signing. Yes, he romped the GP2 title in 2014 with DAMS, but suffers with the same syndrome as current F3 champion Felix Rosenqvist, since it was his fourth attempt, and in his first year he was pointless and 28th in the standings. Vandoorne was 2nd in the standings in his first year, on the same Pirelli tyres – at least Rosenqvist has been consistent. And since Palmer’s F1 mileage to date has been markedly anonymous, we can assume Palmer Sr has managed to arrange a substantial budget. Especially since Palmer was chosen over infinitely more credible talents in Vergne and Magnussen.

    At least we have Verstappen…

    1. For me the only good explanation is that Slim and Haas had already planned to make Guttierez a driver for the team early on, to get that Mexican angle covered.

      Slim had to spent a lot of money to get Perez confirmed at McLAren, so there was not enough money to outbid VdGarde, Nasr and Ericcsson at Sauber, so maybe he just planned ahead at that point. Remember the team already knew him so it would be a solid choice, and they had lost their great hope in JB, so they needed a backup.

    2. Verstappen got the chance as his father had loads of money to buy him loads of Karts to practice with as a kid and bankroll his junior career as a result. As ever motorsport only shows the best of the small percentage of the population who are fortunate to get the opportunity to try it. It used to be said the most naturally talented driver ever was probably a wood cutter in Siberia who never got the chance to try motorsport. This is motorsport not football we only get to see the best of those who have had the chance to try it.

      1. It’s actually a fisherman in Finland ;). Greger Huttu doesn’t even have a car or driving licence, but is 5x iRacing World Driver’s Champion. Apart from dominating sim-racing for over 15 years, he’s also the same age as well as nationality as Kimi Raikkonen, go figure.

        Verstappen recently joined his sim-racing team Redline for extra simulator practice – end result, we saw him do the pass at Spa he practised on the sim, around the outside of Blanchimont.

        PS. One of Bottas’ karting rivals is now a top sim-racer as well. Finland could easily double how many top racing drivers it had, if there was enough backing to go around.

    3. It’s been said that his seat was 6 million, so in addition to his practice sessions (4 million total?), that’s the same as Manor are looking for for 2016, and the same as Chilton’s going rate (maybe Stevens as well, who knows, although Rossi’s is more like Palmer’s practice rate).

      Mercedes only offered 3m for Wehrlein, so perhaps sponsor money is getting sparser (considering falling viewer numbers)? Maldonado’s huge wedge is bound to come under pressure, now that Venezuela have cut back all Motorsports sponsorships apart from his. I read someone wrote 25m – long way down from its Williams heyday.

  16. People are drawn to people with talent. There is something hugely satisfying about watching another person with immense talent do something you can’t. And that only comprises about half the field. The other half are rich boys indulging their own passion that brings me no entertainment to see. I don’t blame them, I’d sure as hell pay to play if I had the chance. I guess I blame myself for still watching, but as long as they carefully balance the mix of talent and pay to play I’ll stick with it slightly aggrieved.

    Gutierrez did nothing of note in a car. None of his races would have been any less enjoyable for being 1 car fewer. Haas said that if they hadn’t secured Grosjean for the lead driver Magnussen would have been their choice. And if the economics of the sport weren’t such that entitled playboys buying their way in was preferable to paying for actual talent that would be another seat with a driver who may actually bring some entertainment instead of just making up the numbers.

    Palmer could prove deserving. Taking 4 years to win GP2 isn’t a stellar record next to people who took it first or second time round. I don’t feel enthusiastic about seeing him come to the sport because I doubt very much we’re seeing the next Hamilton, Alonso or Vettel take to the track.

    1. GP2 is now much harder than when it started as over the years it has gained importance, Vandoorne did not win at the 1st attempt and I doubt anyone will win it in their 1st year again. Guttierez is a GP3 champion up against very good up and coming talent, Palmer beat Vandoorne….potential is one thing but actual results are another and in a spec series Palmer beat Vandoorne in the same car. A lot of people I fell have a pre conception of a driver based on their image. For me Nasr looks very good and I followed him in F3 and was very happy he has had the chance and for me he has been every bit as impressive as the much vaunted Magnussen was in his debut year without a simulator and a better car in a bigger team. I think across the field the average level of talent is higher than in any other era I can remember, this is true of junior formula as well there are so many drivers coming up it is impossible to fit them all in.

      1. My maths wasn’t precise saying ‘half’ the field, it’s probably more like a quarter, and I do think the talented other ‘half’ is one of the strongest grids I can ever recall.

        Vandoorne didn’t win at his first attempt but he had a really impressive first season against some other quite impressive talent and a GP2 veteran, then dominated this year. If you were honestly choosing a driver on pure merit and you had Palmer or Vandoorne available I can’t think of any rational reason to choose Palmer. But as a driver bringing a budget to the team that will result in better performance for the car than the difference in driver would make.

        As a viewer I wouldn’t honestly prefer to see a grid of 22 cars with 6+ seats being bought than a grid of 16 there on pure merit. The economics of the sport are to blame.

    2. In any sporting series there is a range of abilities, so it isn’t just how good the winner is, it is also how good their competitors are. When you see people on a podium you know they were better than their competitors, but you don’t know how good their competitors are, so you don’t know how much better the skills and abilities of those on the podium are compared to everyone else. A competitive series where the skills and abilities are very close will mean the those on the podium won’t look spectacularly different from the ones that aren’t, and those on the podium will regularly change. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with that competitive series, it doesn’t mean those in the series lack ability, it simply means there is little difference between the average and the best.
      GP2 is very much a series where there isn’t much difference between the average skill level and the exceptional skill level, so one wouldn’t expect a new entrant to stand out early on simply because the differences between average and best is so small.

      1. I think there are crrently 10 or more F1 drivers within 3 tenths of each other. For me Rosberg on a one off lap is quicker than Hamilton but he wilts under pressure and is not as consistent. F1 drivers are very closevon pure pace in my opinion.

        1. Agreed, F1 drivers if placed in same machinery and given some time to set a lap, for sure best 10 would be within 3 tenths…

          F1 is much more than just one lap pace. Mansel said he could get laptime over one lap, and I believe him… However geting it right entire race, seperatrs Nicos from Lewises, getting it right year after year seperates Vettels from Buttons,…

          Just ask yourself, if Gutierez and Grosejan would be in this year Mercedes, would they bring home WDC and WCC?

  17. I am pleased for both Palmer and Guttierrez, getting a full time drive in F1 is very difficult, so well done to them.
    Good driving isn’t spectacular driving.

  18. Esteban can be outstanding in the wet, but generally I found he to be slow and unreliable. Palmer took so long to win GP2, and was beaten by Kral, Ericsson and Nasr in his first three seasons. He promotion pains me, there are so many great young drivers out there.

  19. “Whow, what was that?”

    Hope his little feud with Maldonado will continue.

  20. F1 is lacking midfield teams and midfield drives. The kind of teams that don´t need pay-drivers to survive but can´t pay established top-drivers either, the kind of teams where promising youngsters used to start their careers. Nobody would mind Palmer getting a seat if Vandoorne and Ocon had one, too. Actually, I think Palmer deserves a shot… it´s just that there are others who would deserve it more and don´t get a drive.
    When over the last decades the number of cars went from 35ish to 22, and the possible length of a drivers career went up by half a decade or more, the drivers position on the market got significantly weaker, and the rookies suffered the most.

  21. This is the new reality of F1, you either have to be once in a generation good or backed sufficiently by a generous sponsor(s) to make it.

    Max Verstappen potentially is a mix of both. Lets not forget being selected by Red Bull isn’t that much different to Carlos Slim bankrolling your career ala Checo and Gutierrez.

  22. Palmer is highly qualified compared to many other drivers in the current grid. Gutierrez is below average. I think Nasr/Ericsson is a worst pairing.

  23. Magnussen and Vandorne looking for seat in another series. There’s no more question.

  24. don’t particulary like either of them, both of them are just pay drivers in my view.

    i’m however much more annoyed about gutierrez than palmer, because he simply doesn’t deserve a second chance. after a year of being overshadowed by hulkenberg, i was expecting gutierrez to beat sutil fairly easily, which he didn’t do at all. throwing away a points finish at monaco was the point where i realized that he’s just not talented enough to be in f1. how haas justifies signing him is beyond me, and revealing that they were in talks with magnussen afterwards has already dimmed my view on them as a racing team. for grosjeans sake i hope they do well, but at the same time i’m quite sure that most of their points will be scored by the car with the black onboard camera.

    palmer took ages to get a gp2 title, as has beeen said before, but i think he’s a bit of an unproven quantity. i’ll say he’s a pay driver, but i wouldn’t say he’s untalented. time will tell, but i suspect a year on the sidelines hasn’t really helped him on his race-craft. palmer and maldonado is not a drivers combination that will work well. lotus will suffer after grosjean leaves them.

    1. To be honest your quite harsh on gutierrez he has got talent remember he won the gp3 title in 2010. I understand that he was beaten in his sauber times but trust he derserves another chance. Trust me he can proves us wrong.

  25. I haven’t seen enough of Palmer to judge him myself. To be a GP2 Champion must take a certain degree of talent. Better qualified than some anyway. At least with him and Maldonado Lotus’ finances are a lot more secure before any Renault takeover, which is what we all want (the Enstone team on the grid). I did want to see Vandoorne or Vergne get that seat but we’ll see how Palmer goes.

    Now Gutierrez is an uninspiring driver as demonstrated in his two years at Sauber, but with Slim’s backing I can understand Haas giving him a seat. It’s also another tie to Ferrari, who have also benefitted from his backers. Haas have their very strong no.1 driver in Grosjean, while Gutierrez keeps the finances ticking over and at least has some F1 experience. More sponsors on the car as well. To be honest, I have more of an issue with Ericsson’s participation in F1.

    1. What’s your issue with Ericsson his doing well?

      Though i know Nasr is beating him but not all races, but he is doing a great job.

  26. More importantly, who will get more minutes of TV airtime in 2016: Jos Verstappen or Jonathan Palmer?
    (I mean the inane “dad watching in garage” shot they show after almost every shot of Max in his car)
    And will they both be shown more than Mercedes?

    1. Maybe they could stand Palmer next to Carmen Jorda and tick off two ‘required Lotus garage shots’ in one go?

  27. Who really *is* the best driver currently not in F1? Just compare:

    2015 GP2 Champion Stoffel Vandoorne – 4/9 poles – 6/18 fastest laps – 5/18 wins – 13/18 podiums (incl 1st)
    2015 European F3 Champion Felix Rosenqvist – 17/33 poles – 13/33 fastest laps – 13/33 wins – 24/33 podiums (incl 1st)
    2014 European F3 Champion Esteban Ocon – 15/33 poles – 7/33 fastest lap – 9/33 wins – 21/33 podiums (incl 1st)
    2014 European F3 Championships 3rd place Max Verstappen – 7/33 poles – 7/33 fastest laps – 10/33 wins – 16/33 podiums (incl 1st)

    In spite of outclassing both Verstappen and Vandoorne (in as far as different series can be compared), neither Rosenqvist nor Ocon get even a mention. This is as pathetic as parochial – being a Brit or a Dutchman you’re automatically a “great driver” whereas Swedes and Frenchmen of course are nothing more than “pay drivers”.

  28. You guys find hard to remember that Gutiérrez has a fastest lap in a Sauber

    1. Yeah I agree you’re right what race was that.

    2. I remember Spanish Grand Prix 2013 I think I am right

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