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It’s the Monaco Grand Prix weekend in 2012, F1’s was getting a blast from the past as returning Michael Schumacher posted a pole position in the ever-improving Mercedes.

Memories may also regale, Mark Webber doing a backflip into the Red Bull energy station pool as his victory made this the first Formula 1 season in history to feature six different winners in the first six races.

 

We take a picture from the past and give it some context, looking at where and when it was taken and who the persons within the snapshot in time are. If you enjoy these, please do share on social media and let us know your thoughts.

This feature picture was taken at the fifth round of the 2012 GP2 season, Davide Valsecchi is in a strong position in the drivers’ championship as are his team DAMS. 

The Series at the time had future Formula One drivers such as Esteban Gutierrez, Felipe Nasr, Marcus Ericsson and Ria Haryanto. 

This GP2 Sprint race has a famous start with a calamitous number of collisions taking out ten drivers between Beau Rivage and Massenet (YouTube: Link here)

Following that start, Palmer managed to get out front following a third-place position on the grid, as he kept his nose clean for the duration of the race to claim his first GP2 win. 

Reflecting on the relatively short career of Jolyon Palmer, was it a success or did he hand up the Helmut too soon?

Like most of his counterparts, he had driven in Karts as a junior, before Formula Palmer Audi’s in 2007 in which his father, former Formula One driver Jonathan, created nine years prior and then into the formula racing initially with FIA Formula 2. 

Back then, of course, the F2 Championship was a separate series to GP2, which was seen as the main feeder formula for F1 at the time. Interestingly the JPH1 chassis for those single spec cars had been named after Jolyon’s Father and William’s F1 Engineering Director Patrick Head. 

He raced two seasons in the old format for F2 finishing second in the eighteen race season with five wins and five pole positions just behind eventual Champion Dean Stoneman.

So with that relative success came his 2011 move into the GP2 Series where he would race for Arden International, co-founded by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner (The team in 2020 are known as HWA Racelab). 

He didn’t score any points prior to his 2012 move to iSport International (later Russian Time and now managed by Virtuosi Racing) but the season did start to show an improvement in form. 

Many had commented that Palmer may just have been in a seat because of his father’s influence and funding up until that point and without any big achievements it may have been hard for Palmer to hush such criticism. 

His start to the 2012 season was blighted with car issues but then a change of wind saw his first win in this Monaco Sprint Race. He would then continue the season with two other podiums, finishing third in both Silverstone and Monza. 

Palmer had started now to show those critics that he had the potential to make his own mark on the Championship. The following couple of seasons didn’t quite accelerate as he may have hoped following his 2012 triumph and Palmer would continue to make slow progress with some more podiums and wins ahead of his move to DAMS for the 2014 season. 

This finally, however, was the year it all came together for Palmer as clinched the championship at the first possible attempt, with a fourth win of the year at then-new Sochi circuit in Russia. 

He won the title with three races to spare and achieved an all-time point record in the series. His season finally aligned with a car that could steer away from reliability issues and give him a solid platform to rightfully drive his way to a well-earnt title. 

Having spent some years in the formula by now and finally putting it all together for the championship, it was the time like many before him to look onwards and upwards to Formula One as he was offered a Test seat for Sahara Force India. 

However, without any seats available at the time and himself not likely to want a seat back in GP2 he would then go on to watch from the side-lines in 2014 and then again for the 2015 season with Lotus F1 team.

Palmers only track time in those two years came during practice sessions and with the benefit of hindsight, this could well have been detrimental to his own confidence and development as a young driver. 

Two years out of regular competitive racing may have proved a risky move and have had knock-on effects to the driver. It is not uncommon for a young driver to take a singular year out while the chess pieces align like we have seen many times before with the likes of Roman Grosjean, Kevin Magnusson, Danil Kvyat, whom all are currently racing in F1 but having two years away and not racing in other formulas may have affected the driver. 

He was then rewarded for his patience in 2016 when Palmer had the opportunity to make the step into a Formula 1 seat when Renault returned to the sport as a constructor having bought out Lotus F1 team. 

He would be partnered by a young Kevin Magnusson whom hadn’t made the cut at Mclaren two season’s prior and himself too returned from a year in a testing role as Mclaren brought in Fernando Alonso to partner Jenson Button. 

For your rose-tinted glasses, the 2016 season saw Lewis come second best to Nico Rosberg in what would be his final season in racing following his surprise retirement and the birth year of the Daniel Ricciardo “Shoey”.

It wouldn’t be one that expected for either Palmer or Renault to deliver podiums given that Renault had just returned to the sport, and the team had a lot of catching up to do with the rest of the grid in the new Hybrid-era. 

Reality hit home hard through for Palmer; the team encountered a string of issues through the campaign that dogged their progress. Both team and drivers spent most of their time in the bottom third of the grid, Palmers best result was 10th in Malaysia. 

At the time it was felt that Palmer hadn’t really shown enough having been outperformed by Magnusson most of the season. A minor surprise to many came when he was offered a second season as the team looked to build on their development race with the other constructors. 

The team seemed to take some responsibility for the issues with the car and with Magnusson’s departure to Haas, it left Renault in a position to look for at least some continuity by keeping at least one of their drivers. 

Ahead of the 2017 campaign, Palmer had the chance to make a mark in a better developed Renault as he partnered a more experienced and fellow GP2 Champion Nico Hulkenberg.

The pairing seemed like a positive pairing with some good potential for a progressively mined team, but Hackenberg’s experience in F1 told and mounted performance questions on Palmer as he chased the German all season. 

The average qualifying gap on the timing screens was the largest between teammates on the grid and despite some further bad luck and reliability issues for Palmer, he looked like a driver under pressure.

Palmer found himself in the position he was in while driving in GP2, as he had an un-reliable car and really couldn’t make the most of what he had underneath him each weekend. His German teammate was clearly being treated as the number one at this point getting performance upgrades ahead of Palmer, but the Renault was still way off the mark in general. 

Hulkenberg despite any advantage was seen to be out driving his car’s potential, as the pressure mounted on Palmer. This was now telling, and the scrutiny was becoming a top discussion point from both in and out of the team. 

Renault no longer showed patience as they themselves looked to save-face to their stakeholders regarding their lack of performance, they would translate that pressure onto the driver whom had now starting to make more and more mistakes as he pushed to make back the deficit. A vicious cycle of stress we have seen recently affecting the Red bull driver Pierre Gasly whom himself fell foul of a media storm regarding poor performance from both journalists and the team themselves. 

He did, however, go on to claim points in Singapore towards the end of the season, but by then it was already known that he would not be seeing out the season as the team looked to bring in Carlos Sainz Jr for the last few races of the season. 

To compound things further during that time Sainz took to the Renault vacated by Palmer and immediately showed more on a par with Hulkenberg from the first drive. 

Much was expected of the Brit following his Championship season in GP2 but did the spell on the side-lines as a test driver may be affecting his momentum? Pair that with the pressure of driving for an expectant and impatient constructor team, was he simply in the wrong team at the wrong time or did he simply not make the most of his opportunity? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on our social platforms. 

Palmer took his premature departure with good grace as he announced on Renault’s social media channels at the time. It looked more disappointing for him not to complete the season than face the reality he must have known in losing his race seat for 2018. 

Following his exit from the pitlane and a driver, he began an unexpected move from racing into the media as he was announced as BBC Radio 5’s coverage of F1.

He also has features on the Official F1 media channels with his race analysis show coming directly after the weekend’s action. Palmer had previously featured on Sky Sports F1 and co-commentated on GP2 races before to getting his F1 seat with Renault so this seemed like a seamless move into a field which he genuinely seems to enjoy. 

 

 

 

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