2017 F1 driver rankings #20: Palmer

2017 F1 season review

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It will surely surprise no one to find Jolyon Palmer propping up the 2017 driver rankings. His awful second season was cut short by Renault after months of rumours about who would replace him.

In his first season Palmer had done well enough alongside Kevin Magnussen that when the latter left Renault felt it was worth holding on to Palmer instead of enduring the disruption of changing both drivers. But newcomer Nico Hulkenberg settled in quickly and wiped the floor with his fellow GP2 champion.

Jolyon Palmer

Beat team mate in qualifying0/15
Beat team mate in race3/8
Races finished11/16
Laps spent ahead of team mate137/634
Qualifying margin+0.84

It’s true that at times Hulkenberg was the first of the two to get his hands on the latest Renault upgrades. And Palmer did suffer somewhat worse reliability than Hulkenberg, not just in races but often in practice sessions too, depriving him of the running time he needed to get to grips with the car.

But even with all this taken into account it’s easy to see why the gulf in form between the two prompted Renault to drop Palmer. The average qualifying gap between him and Hulkenberg was the largest of any pair of team mates. On occasions, such as in Bahrain, Palmer lost over a second per lap to Hulkenberg in the race.

Predictably this prompted some over-driving on Palmer’s part, particularly as the speculation over his future intensified. He crashed in qualifying in Russia, went off twice at the Hungaroring and spun twice on his final outing for the team in Malaysia. The latter was one of the rare occasions he took the chequered flag before Hulkenberg, who had unsuccessfully gambled on a risky strategy.

At Spa Palmer was on course for his best performances of the year in qualifying. He was quicker than Hulkenberg in Q2 as the pair progressed to the final round of qualifying. Cruelly, another technical problem struck and Palmer had to start 14th. Hulkenberg went on to take his sixth top ten finish of the year while Palmer remained point-less.

He finally claimed his first points of the year at Singapore. By this time it was already known he wouldn’t be a Renault driver in 2018 and soon afterwards the team reached a deal to replace him with Carlos Sainz Jnr from the Japanese Grand Prix.

Any remaining questions about Palmer’s performance were answered when Sainz took over his car and immediately qualified it much closer to Hulkenberg’s pace than Palmer had managed.

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Over to you

A frankly dreadful display from Palmer, who we’ve surely seen the last of in Formula One now. He was so far from Hulkenberg that they could have been driving different cars. A solid points score in Singapore was the highlight of an otherwise terrible season. Bad luck and bad driving combined to give him the boot well before the end of the year. The rumoured cash settlement from Renault will probably make for a nice Christmas though.

What’s your verdict on Jolyon Palmer’s 2017 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than him? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:


The 2017 F1 Fanatic Driver rankings includes the 20 drivers who started more than five races during this season. Five drivers are therefore omitted.

These include Toro Rosso latecomers Pierre Gasly and Brenton Hartley, both of which struggled to acclimatise at short notice and with their running limited by power unit problems. They will get a second crack next year.

Jenson Button bowed out with a one-off comeback in Monaco where he took the McLaren into Q3. However grid penalties left him at the tail of the field and he made a rather desperate lunge at Pascal Wehrlein. Paul di Resta also started a single race and did a solid job for Williams at the Hungaroring after no practice running.

Antonio Giovinazzi’s two appearances for Sauber in place of Wehrlein at the start of the year contrasted sharply. Like Di Resta he had minimal running before his first appearance in Australia. Nonetheless he did well, almost knocking Marcus Ericsson out in Q1. However China was a disaster as he crashed twice.

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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...

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36 comments on “2017 F1 driver rankings #20: Palmer”

  1. He did overtake a Mercedes. Not many did that.

    1. He has never beaten his teammate in quali. Not many did that.

  2. Predictable. Though he is a likable person his two year spell in F1 was a waste of a seat that could have seen promising drivers come into F1. Instead of that we saw a dead-slow driver for two years. A shame and it certainly did no good to his self esteem.

    1. Not sure I agree with the likeable part of your comment. He always came across as quite whiney, was full of excuses and didn’t have the pace he thought he could produce. In fairness, I suppose I would get quite shirty too if the first question every journalist asked me every race weekend was a variation of “how do you feel about the fact that you won’t be a Renault driver next year”.

  3. It’s never a good feeling to give it your all and see your teammate so far up the timing screens, and surely the situation became even more difficult with the media and fans making him fully aware of his lack of performance. Such a shame, as he seemed to be a pretty nice guy but this is F1, and world class talent is what matters in the end.

  4. Definitely the underperformer of the season.

  5. Palmer didn’t come away from the season completely empty handed… he earned an entire article on F1F!

  6. Hard to put Palmer anywhere else but dead last in this year’s rankings. Even Stroll and Kvyat managed to have some silver linings throughout the season, but Palmer had absolutely nothing going for him except for 1 decent performance at the Singapore GP.

  7. I don’t quite agree with him being 20th and last. I don’t think his performance was worse than Stroll’s – he’s just being held up to a higher standard. That being said, he was indeed pretty bad.

    1. While Stroll’s baseline was surely worse than Palmer, you can’t discount the podium and front row start Stroll had.

      1. Indeed @ben-n, that wet qualifying lap showed us what his father and the team see in him (or at least I hope they do!) and why we can hope to see him develop in his second year. And the podium, while luck was a part of it, still counts as something that not everyone can achieve (just ask Hulk, or for that matter Sutil)

      2. @ben-n
        Not only do I think I can, I think I should, particularly in the case of Baku. That result had nothing to do with his performance, it was almost entirely shaped by the circumstances. Without all those accidents, technical issues, punctures, penalties, loose headrests and neutralisations that nullified all the gaps up until the middle of the race, Stroll was on course for a lowly top ten finish at best. Would we be talking about Stroll’s Baku performance if it had been a normal race, with him finishing 10th or so, or if Massa’s damper hadn’t failed and thus allowed him to fight for the win? I’m pretty confident that we wouldn’t.

        Monza is a different question, but again, his starting position was not a direct representation of his qualifying performance (which was good enough for 4th, so still pretty damn impressive). Additionally, his qualifying performance in Monza was so wildly different from the rest of his season (and also completely unlike any other wet sessions throughout the season) that I wonder whether this is actually reproduceable. But even if it was, that’s one extraordinary showing over a very long season filled to the brim with horrible performances.

        1. I agree that Baku wasn’t extraordinary pace-wise, but he kept it pointing in the right direction on a day when Vettel, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ocon, Sainz, Bottas and Raikkonen (to name but a few) lost their heads and collided with other cars, span or hit the barriers. Sometimes you need a little luck and Stroll was there to take the opportunity when it came.

          It wasn’t a classic drive by any stretch of the imagination, but it was to be applauded nonetheless.

    2. Well, since this was his second year already, he SHOULD be held to a higher standard Nase. Stroll still did start as a rookie and even all the testing couldn’t hlep him with track knowledge everywhere.

      1. @bascb
        I don’t think he should. This is a ranking, a look back at 2017 and how well each driver has performed, and not a prospective ranking that deals with how well a driver will fare in the future. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with ranking a rookie lower than a more experienced driver even if it is assumed that the rookie’s performance was affected by his lack of experience. And I wouldn’t consider Palmer a prime example of an experienced driver, either …

  8. This ranking won’t generate much controversy.

    1. @tango just hope that Joe Saward doesn’t lurk around these parts. He was suggesting Palmer for the Williams drive not long back!

      1. Because Williams has had its head up its posterior for years and has made the calculation that if they take lots of cash from drivers up front that offsets loss of points down the line. Apparently the year it was Senna and Maldonado they realized, “@#&$!, we gave up so many points we actually lost money overall!”

        Palmer comes with cash. Renault must have been absolutely desperate either for the extra prize money OR the glory/contractual fulfillment it has with the parent Renault company for finishing two rungs higher thanks to Sainz.

    2. Well apart from Nase who is having a crack at a contrary viewpoint! Clutching at straws though for Palmer @ben-n was quite correct ‘frankly dreadful!’ is the best summary.

      1. I’m sure @nase will agree he ain’t top 15 either @ju88sy

        1. @tango
          You’re right, I’m more or less arguing for him to be classified 19th.

        2. @tango
          You’re right, I’m more or less arguing for him to be classified 19th.

          Meaningless string of words to get rid of the ‘duplicate comments’ message.

  9. It’s moments like this I chuckle at the frequent, tiresome accusations of British-bias against this site.

    1. Not even this site could put Palmers performance dead last year… Thats How bad it was. But you can always look at “the guardian” or “PlanetF1” to find cozy comfort…

      1. Put it “other” than last that is ofcourse….sorry

  10. Sorry to see a Brit go, apparently his kid bro is half decent though it might be the bottom half tbf.

    Been plenty of sons/nephews of in F1, most of them pony, JP did deem to have the microscope turned up to 11 on his performances but maybe that was because this is F1 and there is no hiding place.

  11. i’ve been looking forward to these…and the usual bun fight in the comments section – i know you all love each other really. palmer really confirmed what was long suspected of him – he was a post turtle.

    F1metrics has him similarly low down – https://f1metrics.wordpress.com/2017/12/05/2017-f1metrics-end-of-season-report/

    1. @frood19 The doesn’t fun start until we get to the Top 5!

  12. As a GP2 champion I was please to see him given the chance to prove he deserved a seat, sadly he failed to meet expectations.

  13. I honestly look forward to these as much as the holiday season. Once again a superb article to begin Keith!

  14. 20th is generous.

  15. Palmer was simply whiney and atrocious when compared do to Hulkenberg. Just when you thought he was going to pull a good performance – it would be sacked for one reason or another. Good riddance.

    I will say the Renault short with him and the 7x year old Rose was pretty special though. A must watch.

  16. Only rating 20 drivers? Shouldn’t there be 21 considering Brendon Hartley’s arrival?
    And wasn’t it Alain Prost while being interviewed on Sky at the last race that basically said Palmer didn’t put in the work required to be a proper F1 driver?

  17. Probably the only thing that performed worse than the Honda engines!

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