2016 F1 season driver rankings #16: Palmer

2016 F1 season review

Posted on

| Written by

After taking a few races to play himself in Jolyon Palmer got on terms with team mate Kevin Magnussen’s pace despite had a few scrapes along the way. He also surprised many by landing a second season at Renault.

Jolyon Palmer

Beat team mate in qualifying8/19
Beat team mate in race6/12
Races finished15/20
Laps spent ahead of team mate373/834

The opening rounds were tricky for the F1 rookie: he spent the first race getting overtaken, didn’t start the second one due to a hydraulic fault and grappled with tyre degradation on his way to last in round three. By Friday in Sochi Palmer was on a low, vexed by his car’s handling.

But tweaks to the RS16’s floor on Saturday gave him new confidence and from then on his form visibly improved. By the end of the year he was arguably the stronger driver in qualifying, reaching Q2 in all of the last five races bar Mexico (where a cracked chassis kept him from running).

His effort at Suzuka was especially impressive given his limited practice time. While Magnussen won the qualifying battle, Palmer progressed beyond the first round once more than his team mate.

Success on race day was harder to come by with the RS16’s under-developed chassis and third-best power unit. Magnussen scored early on in the campaign and it seemed Palmer was feeling the pressure to match him: he spun off while running in the points at the Hungaroring.

A spate of crashes didn’t help matters. Monaco was a bruising experience involving three crashes, the last of which put him out of the race early on. He rammed Felipe Massa in Germany and Carlos Sainz Jnr in Abu Dhabi. Palmer also tangled with Daniil Kvyat in blinding spray at Interlagos.

He finally came good in Malaysia, snatching a point from 19th, and more goods news followed soon after when Renault re-signed him for 2017.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

Over to you

Did better than we all expected, enough for a 2017 seat, but hardly set the world alight, and was error-prone.

What’s your verdict on Jolyon Palmer’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are produced by referring to:

View race-by-race notes on Jolyon Palmer

Australia – Showed little sign of being race-rusty despite having spent last season as a test driver. Showed maturity in a wheel-to-wheel scrap with Bottas, although the Williams driver got the better of him, as did the Toro Rosso pair. There was likely little he could have done to ensure the Renault finished ahead of those cars, and he wasn’t far off a debut point at the flag.

Bahrain – Renault’s pace was much weaker in Bahrain but Palmer qualified just a couple of tenths off his team mate. However he failed to start the race due to a hydraulic problem.

China – The other Renault driver was even less happy after being the last driver to see the chequered flag. “The balance of the car was all over the place,” he said, “tyre degradation was bigger than usual and the pace wasn’t as good as previous races”.

Russia – Still unhappy with the balance of his car after China, Palmer was pessimistic about his prospects for the weekend on Friday. He turned it around on Saturday after changes to his floor, and was just a tenth of a second off Magnussen in qualifying. He stayed in touch with Magnussen in the first stint but pitted earlier, and his pace dropped off sooner on the soft tyres. He dropped behind Ricciardo and finished six places behind his team mate.

Spain – Sat out first practice while Esteban Ocon drove his car and was delayed by a puncture in the second session. He only narrowly missed a place in Q2. Delivered what he called his best performance to date in the race, stretching out his stint on hards until the end unlike Magnussen, but points weren’t in the offing.

Monaco – Tabac, Swimming Pool, Sainte-Devote: The three scenes of Palmer’s crashes during a bruising first weekend as an F1 driver in Monaco. His pace was not too bad, giving away three-tenths of a second to Magnussen in Q1. His race-ending crash began when he spun his wheels in fifth gear while going over a pedestrian crossing in front of the pits.

Canada – Some way off Magnussen’s pace on Friday at a track where he didn’t run during practice last year, but came close to reaching Q2 as Renault’s sole representative in qualifying. He used ultra-softs at the start but also found tyre warm-up difficult and was overtaken by Ericsson. His race was ended by a water pressure problem.

Europe – The only positive to be drawn from qualifying for Paler was that Magnussen’s time indicated there wasn’t much more performed to be found from the car. An error at the first corner at the start cost him a chance of beating his team mate, and he also flat-spotted a set of softs tyres forcing an early pit stop.

Austria – Also happier with his car, Palmer was just two-hundredths of a second off Magnussen in qualifying. However he was bumped back three places for failing to slow sufficiently in a yellow flag zone. Leading home Nasr in the race was a reasonable result.

Britain – Didn’t make it beyond Q1 at his home track. In the race he jumped ahead of his team mate due to the VSC but at his second pit stop he was released with an unfastened rear wheel and copped a ten-second stop-go penalty. The retired as a precaution after also experiencing gearbox problems.

Hungary – Had put in one of his best performances of the year so far until the car got away from him at turn four on lap 47, dropping him three places to 13th. Prior to that he’d out-qualified Magnussen in difficult conditions and got ahead of the Haas drivers with a longer first stint. “I turned in the same as normal at turn four,” he said. “I wasn’t hanging everything out and I was looking after the tyres – but for some reason I lost the car in a massive snap.”

Germany – Ocon drove his car in first practice but Palmer was soon up to speed and beat Magnussen into Q2. But he spoiled his race on the first lap by locking up his tyres at turn two and then hitting Massa which forced an early pit stop and, later, a front wing change. A weekend which had started promisingly ended up with 19th place.

Belgium – Joined Magnussen in Q2 but was four-tenths of a second slower after his final effort. Having got up to seventh at the start he lost ground by pitting under the Safety Car before the red flag. Stuck behind Kvyat at the restart he was passed by the Ferraris, the Haas pair and Bottas and had to make two further pit stops as he grappled with high tyre degradation.

Italy – A chance to bring his car home in front of his team mate was lost when Nasr took him out.

Singapore – Admitted he pushed his tyres too hard in qualifying and “the performance fell off a cliff” as a result. He picked up a slow puncture early on in the race, had to pit early and dropped behind the Manors. He eventually got ahead of them but could only manage 15th.

Japan – Had only done one lap of Suzuka before Friday so he could have done without missing much of first practice with an electrical problem. Nonetheless he made it into Q2 and reckoned he could have started as high as 12th had he not caught yellow flags on his last lap. Like Magnussen he was closer to Renault’s practice pace in the race, rising to finish 12th, despite a minor off while being lapped by Verstappen and Hamilton.

Malaysia – A set-up change before his final run in Q1 proved his undoing and he was unable to hold on to a place in Q2. However he kept out of trouble at the start and employed a one-stop strategy to minimise his time in the pits. This ultimately yielded his first F1 point.

United States – His engineer took the blame for Palmer impeding Button in qualifying, and Renault were fortune not to get a penalty. Palmer duly made it into Q2. However in the race he fell behind Magnussen and, shadowing his team mate’s strategy, was unable to get back ahead and unwilling to risk a move.

Mexico – Not satisfied with his balance on Friday evening, matters took a turn for the worse on Saturday when he clattered a kerb in final practice which surprisingly left him with a crack chassis, preventing him from participating in qualifying. He ran almost the entire race distance on the same set of medium tyres and held 12th until the McLarens found their way through.

Brazil – Despite being held up by Ocon in Q3 Palmer claimed a place in Q2. He was lining up to pass Kvyat at the restart on lap 19 when Raikkonen crashed in front of them and Palmer was caught out by Kvyat slowing down. The resulting contact ended the Renault driver’s race.

Abu Dhabi – Tyre degradation on high fuel was his concern on Friday evening but the following day he was pleased with his work, gaining a place in Q2. His race started well and he quickly rose to 11th, raising hopes of a points finish. But tyre degradation remained a significant problem and he began to lose ground, then ran into the back of Sainz, picking up a penalty.

2016 F1 season review

Browse all 2016 F1 season review articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

31 comments on “2016 F1 season driver rankings #16: Palmer”

  1. Worst driver in the first half of the season. Improved greatly in the 2nd half though. But how he is ranked above Wehrlein baffles me. Wehrlein beat Ocon, one of the most highly-rated young drivers, whereas Palmer couldn’t even beat Magnussen, a driver who is good, but not destined for greatness.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      8th December 2016, 10:20

      fully agree, @mashiat.
      Oftentimes the ‘year-end’ ranking seems to be more ‘2nd half’ ranking. Palmer has shown some real improvement; but on a full year not above Wehrlein or even Ocon IMO.

      1. Palmer gets extra points for being British.

    2. Yup, I find myself wondering about ti too @mashiat, @coldfly. Yes, Palmer massively improved from being hopeless in at the start to being decent and showing progres at the end.

      Wherlein showed us far more. My feel is that Guttierez showed more (just not enough to get another year), even Kvyat showed more (he does have a podium going for him) and Ocon showed more too, especially given that he was in the car only for half a season. Heck, in the first half of the year Haryanto was showing a better side of himself than Palmer was.

      Yes, I can see why Palmer got a shot at another year, towards the end of his first he was starting to show being on the proper grid, so he is clearly developing (contrary to a Guttierez). But still, over the whole year, he was hugely disappointing for a GP2 champ who had had some decent amount of running as 3rd driver last year in the same team.

      1. +1 I see how Wherlein and Ocon’s performances are difficult to evaluate but I don’t see how Palmer or Ericsson for that matter are way ahead of Gutierrez in the list, they are the same level at least if not behind.

    3. When Kevin Magnussen came to F1 and MacLaren, he was touted as one of the bright stars of the future and many experts saw him as a possible future DWC (remember, this was before Verstappen and Vandoorne), but he was soundly beaten by Button, a very much underrated driver who had run Hamilton so close that fans still argue today about their three years together. Talent doesn’t disappear. Even if KMag may have disappointed some this year after sitting out 2015, he is a good benchmark, so for Palmer to be the more impressive Renault driver of the final races this season is a real accomplishment. Why is he rated above the Manor drivers? Because they had the benefit of the Mercedes engine and it showed in qualifying as well as on race day when overtaking them on some tracks were well-nigh impossible, DRS notwithstanding, even for teams higher up the grid than Renault.

  2. I rate all three Manor drivers above this lad.

    1. Including Haryanto? That’s a little harsh.

      1. Sure. Just compare how both drivers handle their 1st semester in F1.

  3. Should not be higher than either Manor driver or Massa. Will get obiliterated next year by Hulk.

  4. I thought Palmer was better than expected in the second half of the season. Hungary was definitely his biggest missed opportunity. I think he showed signs of potential but was way to error prone and inconsistent. Hopefully, his sophomore year we should see him do better.

    However, I did not think he was better than Wehrlein this season. He should have been at #17 and Wehrlein at #16

  5. He also surprised many by landing a second season at Renault.

    His main achievement of 2016! He proved to be almost as dull and boring as Raikkonen. And I seem to remember a rather clumsy bump into Kvyat at Interlagos. A completely forgettable driver.

  6. I honestly don’t see the fuss about this guy. He’s not bad but struggled to comprehensively beat Magnussen, who frankly always looked like he was faster. The first half of the year he was certainly one of the worst on the grid, and in the second he was only a little better. Granted the car was a shopping trolley, but drivers that have been ranked below him outperformed theirs, and I think Magnussen outperformed his. So I don’t get Palmer, he’s just sorta ‘there’.

    I also don’t get his second season at Renault. Seems clear he was the last man standing as everyone else said no – even his team-mate, so I’ll be stunned if he gets a third season.

    1. @rocketpanda Like McLaren last year, it’s hard to judge either of the Renault drivers because the year was basically all about treading water.

  7. Palmer had a decent enough debut outqualifying Magnussen and putting his car wheel to wheel convincingly in Melbourne. Then through the season faded into obscurity. I’m not ready to write him off completely as with him and Magnussen being pretty unknown quantities it’s tough to tell just how bad that car is. Next year against Hulkenberg I think we’ll get a clearer picture.

  8. Paul Ortenburg
    8th December 2016, 11:07

    Cant help but think his rating is inflated by his Nationality.

    Something both Sky and F1Fanatic have a tendency towards.

    1. Fully agree. But thats good to get some debate going on the forum..

  9. Has been driving single-seaters for almost a decade now, but looked THE ROOKIEST in the first half of the season (plus Hungery).
    Upped his game only just enough to see out the season and got lucky noone else wanted a one year deal at Renault.

    Was decent in the last few qualis, but still binned it in the races most of the times.
    A Haas-bound Magnussen might not be a good benchmark for those races as well.

  10. One of a group near the rear-end of the rankings who could feasibly have been put in any order. Expected him to improve as the season progressed (he looks like a slow starter) and he did, but genuinely amazed he got a second season at a works team…

  11. Palmer could also be placed behind the Manor drivers. Not being trashed by a not-so-stellar Magnussen is not a feat. One of the worst GP2 champion that graduated to F1. Now, that car is a dog and clearly had some weird behavior sometimes.

  12. This guys is too high up the list. When you compare him to the manor and sauber drivers he made more silly mistakes if not crashing all over the place. Only a few flashes of pace and not a pair of steady hands. Not sure if he should even be in F1 much less.

  13. Probably the most unfair ranking I’ve seen since I stares following this site in 2008.

    Palmer had plenty of feeder series experience, was frequently outqualified by a Manor and scored the same points as Werlhein, but still ranked ahead of him.

    If anything, he made Magnussen seem more average than I thought he was, and can’t help thinking that this Renault would score many more points in better hands…

  14. I think we Brits can’t help it: we want Palmer to be good and we’re giving him our encouragement, going for easier on him in the press than would be the case if he wasn’t the only other Brit left on the grid. But, if I am totally honest, I find it astonishing that he managed to find himself a seat for 2017.

  15. A few flashes and improved in the latter half of the season. I think Palmer will be a solid midfield driver in the next few years (someone like Heidfeld or Fisichella), but nothing more than that.

    1. @kaiie I cannot believe you compare him Heidfeld (and Fisichella) while calling him a solid midfield driver.

      About Fisichella I am not so sure, but I think Heidfeld is one of the most underrated drivers since I have been watching F1 (somewhere in 2003). He was never extreamely quick, but he was one of the safest pairs of hand out there in my opinion.

      I will agree that his final period at Lotus was somewhat of a disappointment though. By then the candle might not have been burning as brightly anymore.

      I strongly recommend this website for all fans who would like data driven conclusions on drivers. While not perfect, it always makes for an interesting read: https://f1metrics.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/experts-versus-models-how-do-we-rank-drivers/

  16. I respect your analysis, but Palmer should be below Wehrlein. I really don’t get this one Keith, sorry!

  17. Palmer has displayed some promising signs in the second half of the season and it has to be seen next season whether he can be counted upon or not. Rating is just about fair

  18. I’m baffled by the ratings for both Renault drivers. Sure, the machinery predictably languished in the midfield and didn’t progress, but Palmer was abysmal in the first half of the season, and only passable in the second (throwing away a point-scoring position in Hungary isn’t easily forgotten). An utterly mediocre season somehow rated above Ocon and Wehrlein, who each showed moments of brilliance–or, if not that, great potential. Something Palmer did not. I’m equally bemused by Magnussen’s position (which, at this point, must be #13 or higher), given his quiet, understated year, but hey… opinions!

  19. Highly under rated as well as his team mate. They had one of the worst cars in Renault history. Bad engine and even worst aero. Palmer was a rooky this year and had to learn a lot. Romain Grosjean was something similar in his first years and where he is. Palmer has potential and he managed the pressure in order to show it. I hope he manage to learn from Hulk and show again improving rate he showed this year. That is a very hard task as Hulk is a class with a lot of experience.

  20. Lucky to get a 2017 drive, however if he shows signs of what made him fun to watch in GP2 – good turn of pace and eye for an overtake then all is forgiven. Let’s see how he does vs Hulk.

  21. Last races MAG’s car was suffering both engine and front wing parts.. the crash at spa did some impact on the frame and motor.. from that point his car was slower.. last two races Renault was favoring PAL with parts – trying to make PAL look better than MAG after MAGS exit to HAAS… I think MAG has a great potentiel but he does need a performing car..just a top ten car will do..and another perspektive: MAG didn’t drive in 2015 while PAL was test driving the Lotus all season plus having acces to the simulator- so who was the rookie in Renault this season..still MAG scored most points and won the qualify…and PAL is not a bad driver at all – HUL will have problems next year with PAL…

Comments are closed.