After suffering troubles with his chassis and power unit in the days before the Russian Grand Prix, Jolyon Palmer was hoping his fortunes would turn around for Sunday’s race.
However, the Renault driver found himself out of the Grand Prix before the end of the first lap after he got tangled up with Romain Grosjean at Turn 2 on the Sochi Autodrom.
This was Palmer’s second crash of the weekend and it forced many on Twitter to question his form in 2017, which has yet to see him score points.
“Just go home man stop wasting everyone’s time @JolyonPalmer” wrote Andres Nino.
“Jolyon Palmer is like Pastor Maldonado without the hilarity and the ridiculousness,” were the words used by Luke McCarthy-Reed.
‘Jdunn’ felt it necessary to post this tweet too: “I can’t wait for Lewis Hamilton to retire and Britain has the likes of Jolyon Palmer representing.”
And, that’s made me question, is this hate speech coming toward Jolyon Palmer completely justified? Absolutely not.
In Australia, his weekend preparations were heavily marred when he was only able to complete a total of 10 laps on Friday. In that weekend, a technical issue with the gearbox limited Palmer’s opening practice session to just six laps. Later that day in FP2, he was involved in a session ending shunt at the final corner on the Albert Park circuit after just four laps of running.
Saturday didn’t get much better for him as he could only qualify 20th and last due to a fuel surge forcing him to the garage in the closing minutes of Q1. After the session, Palmer wildly speculated to media, “there’s something not quite right.”
His race didn’t go all that much better; a sticky brake pedal, another issue completely out of his control, forced his retirement on lap 15.
However, just hours after the conclusion of the Australian Grand Prix, Renault identified an issue with the rear anti-roll bars on Palmer’s RS17 chassis. Ironically, his wild speculations after qualifying came true as there was indeed something wrong with his chassis that didn’t allow him to perform properly.
Because of this, it’s hard to put any blame on Palmer for his admittedly below-par performances in Australia.
After China’s first two practice sessions were both effectively cancelled, Palmer again missed out on a proper Friday of running. But, that didn’t stop him from hitting the track running in FP3, where he proved his car had Q3 pace by finishing in 9th place. And, he was most likely to achieve such a position in the actual qualifying session had it not been for Antonio Giovanazzi, who’s violent crash in Q1 forced Palmer to abort his final quicker lap in Q1, ending any chance of progressing to Q2.
Palmer was forced to start his second successive race from P20 and Renault struggled with their overall race pace. Palmer’s team mate Nico Hulkenberg would come home in P12 with Palmer just behind in an uneventful, but relieving, P13.
Palmer said after the Chinese weekend that his plan was, “to Bahrain with the objective of a much better weekend.”
And, Bahrain was shaping up to be an outstanding weekend after two incident-free Friday practice sessions and an eventual spot in Q3. Unfortunately, Bahrain exposed the main weakness of the RS17: their race pace. Both Hulkenberg and Palmer struggled with their tires throughout and they were forced to settle with less than impressive positions of P9 and P13 respectively. Palmer described the race as a “difficult evening.”
This race pace issue is no mimic and has majorly affected Renault so far in 2017. “[W]e are currently qualifying better than we race and that’s a symptom of our current car performance,” Renault’s Chief Technical Officer, Bob Bell, told Autosport during Bahrain’s in-season test. This in-of-itself proves that Palmer is not wholly responsible for admittedly poor results so far. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/129170
The team trialled a new front wing during the aforementioned test, which they hope will fix the issue that has stopped both Hulkenberg and Palmer from finishing higher in 2017.
As touched on earlier, Russia’s weekend was no easier than the previous three for Palmer. After smooth sailing throughout Friday, a change to his chassis and power unit on Saturday morning forced him in to a blind qualifying session. Palmer eventually hit the barrier at Turn 5 in Q1, ending his session early. He hinted the accident was caused by his lack of running on the ultrasoft tires earlier in the day as he told media, “I was on the back foot slightly with missing FP3.”
Sunday’s incident at Turn 2 on the opening lap with Romain Grosjean – which forced both drivers into immediate retirement – was judged to be a racing incident by stewards. Those on Twitter were quick to criticize Palmer, who has now been ruled to have played just as large of part as Romain Grosjean.
Palmer said the incident, “was a shame for both of us (Grosjean) really.”
In conclusion, when reviewing Palmer’s season thus far, the fact can’t be denied that it has been poor. Hulkenberg has had two points finishes and three Q3 appearances to Palmer’s nil points and solitary appearance in Q3 at Bahrain.
But, these poor performances haven’t become Palmer isn’t good enough. So far, he’s suffered a total of six car issues over two weekends that have gone on to affect his performance. In essence, Palmer and Renault have been unable to have an issue-free weekend.
So, to those who are writing harsh words on Twitter and calling for Palmer’s axing (like Kiko Giles who wrote, “Time to replace.”), you should wait until you’ve seen him have a half-decent weekend where his machinery allows him to perform to the best of his ability.