Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
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Renault F1 admits Palmer’s days are numbered, so who would replace him?
Posted By: Editor   |  19 Jun 2017   |  2:51 pm GMT  |  132 comments

After a difficult start to the Formula 1 season, Jolyon Palmer has been warned by Renault that his seat is not safe and a replacement may already be lined up for the Briton.

26-year-old Palmer has yet to score a point in 2017 – his last was earned in Malaysia last year – while team-mate Nico Hulkenberg has taken all of Renault’s 18 points in his first season with Renault.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul recently told Autosport that “No one is safe in F1” when asked about Palmer’s performance in his second season with Renault.

“To a certain degree there are two questions. There is Jo, and there is a second driver. Right now my focus is on Jo. Jo has to deliver.

“What would happen then, I don’t want to elaborate on that, and even further, who would be stepping in, because that’s absolutely not the point for today. The fact is that Jo has a car which is a points-scoring car, and he has to enter into the points. Full stop.

“F1 is not an environment where anyone can say loudly, ‘I’m safe.’

“Right now I feel that it’s a bit almost unfair to Nico, who has to do a lot,” he said. “The team is clearly very dependent on [Hulkenberg].”

“What puts pressure on is not putting in good performances,” acknowledged Palmer in Canada.

“I am aware that the start of the year has been pretty disappointing. I am working hard and I am ready to turn it around.

“In terms of the rumours there have been rumours since my third ever race in F1 so it is nothing new for me.

“Of course, the way to stop it is to do well on track.

“It’s been a tough start to the year, there’s been some positives recently even if it doesn’t necessarily show on the results sheet,” he said.

Last year, Renault let Kevin Magnussen join Haas, retaining Palmer and signing Hulkenberg. There was talk of the team considering Esteban Ocon, the then-GP3 champion who is now scoring points at Force India.

Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr was also touted to join Renault, but he chose to remain at the Red Bull sister team instead in 2016.

If the outfit is to replace Palmer, who, there are a few possible candidates in focus for next season.

Sergey Sirotkin 

Russian Sirotkin is already a Renault F1 test and reserve driver with participation in simulator work and practice sessions in Russia and Spain this season.

The 21-year-old competed in the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing in their LMP2 car and finished third in the 2016 GP2 (now F2) championship behind Ferrari development driver Antonio Giovinazzi and Red Bull reserve and champion Pierre Gasly.

Sirotkin has a clear ambition to gain a 2018 seat somewhere, and his promising single-seater form could help that.

But, with limited practice time for Renault and a lack of extensive race experience in 2017 so far, Renault may not want to risk taking a rookie in 2018 to compete in an already tough midfield battle.

There has been little speculation over Sirotkin’s future, which may be a sign in itself, but more significantly Renault stepped up his role for 2017 by giving him ‘third driver’ status.

“I try not to react to or talk about rumours,” Sirotkin said to Russian outlet Championat.

“Unfortunately Jolyon has not been able to show the results the machine is capable of, but he is also working hard and trying to make progress.

“So it would be bad for him if I get involved in any political games. We do our job, and I think the team is able to see the whole situation for itself.”

Sebastien Buemi 

Current Formula E championship leader, 28-year-old Renault e.Dams driver Buemi, has an extensive and impressive motorsport CV.

Buemi won the electric championship in 2015 and competed in Toyota’s LMP1 entry at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing ninth overall. The Frenchman has focused on endurance racing as well as FE this season, but his single-seater credentials are still growing.

Christian Horner said to Auto Motor und Sport in 2016 that Buemi would be taking part in further test sessions for Red Bull and Pirelli as well. The Red Bull Team Principal recommended Renault sign him last year.

“Buemi would be the ideal man for the team,” said Horner.

“He is fast, hardworking, has technical understanding and experience. You can call him at 3 in the morning, and he sits down in the simulator.”

The only obstacle is Buemi’s recent contract extension with Renault e.Dams, an obligation which keeps him with the FE team until 2019.

Robert Kubica 

Pole Kubica put his first miles down in an F1 car since 2011 this year, having tested a 2012 Lotus-Renault at Valencia.

The 32-year-old tested a GP3 car and a Formula E machine before making his shock F1 return, but Renault told Sky Sports that the F1 outing was a “one-off”, while Kubica said he wanted a ‘proper comeback’.

“I had very good feelings straight away in the car and I had very good feeling from a fitness point of view,” said Kubica.

“Lately I have spent an awful lot of time and an awful lot of effort trying to prepare the best I can in case I will have the opportunity to drive an F1 car and I had a great day.”

“To know I can drive the car and I can drive the car on good pace and I can drive the car for an entire grand prix distance is something which makes me happy and proud.

“Once I have done this test I would like to test more. It doesn’t depend only on my side, but I will keep working and hopefully one day I will have a chance to go forward and step-by-step maybe have a proper comeback.”

Abiteboul downplayed the “speculation and rumours” to Autosport, however.

“I think in this present case we need to be a little bit careful, because we’re talking about an individual that we all love, with a fantastic image, and who has suffered a very difficult situation from a personal perspective.

“So I think I would ask on this occasion everyone to be a little bit careful. Yes, we have done that test, but we don’t want to create expectations in anyone’s mind, including Robert himself.

“At some point we’ll have to discuss our future line-up, that’s public information. We have a long-term contract with Nico, and a contract for 2017, and all of 2017, with Jolyon.

“But at some point we will have to review options. If by then, Robert becomes an option, we can have a look. As we speak, he’s not on the list.”

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Robert is hihgly motivated to rejoin F1 properly. I think he could drive the worse car in the grid to feel like home, as he recently described F1 car’s cockipt. He’s fit and ready to have a proper go in Grand Prix racing once again. He would be great asset for any team given his incredible knowledge (he would be race engineer given his knowledge) and also experience.


@APerfectSquare: I think you give Palmer too much credit. If they want to restructure/rebrand the team they will do it regardless of what drivers are in their employ at the time.


Sad state of affairs when Great Britain may only have one British Driver in F1 in 2018.
Palmer hasn’t shone, Jenson retired and Hamilton in his 30’s isn’t going to be in the sport many more years.
Where are the next Mansell, Hill, Button and Hamilton? British drivers in F1 seem a endangered species.


Lando Norris is on the way.


50% Calrissian; 50% Chuck!! 😀


Like cricket being hidden away on pay TV youngsters won’t know what F1 is…

søren christensen

@anotsoperfectsquare and@cyber – silly season surely has begun – or are you just a few months delayed – say 1. April…..


Come on @Søren, we are maximum just a couple of Grappas ahead of you! ;o)

Apart from Alfa not buying out McL F1 just right now… FCA and Ferrari boss Marchionne has though at multiple occasions expressed his strong desire to bring back Alfa Romeo to F1 with its own team. (Provided that they are never ever as good as Ferrari. ;o)

So much like Toro Rosso to Red Bull. Alfa would be the junior team to Ferrari, designed to condition future talent for its bigger brother. Marchionne spoke to that very point around new year when announcing Giovinazzi as Ferrari’s new 3rd driver.



Goggles Paisano.


SO this is how they bring robert kubica back into the fold. Theres more going on here than meats the eye. With mclarren sold to alfaromeo yesterday and a supply of ferrari power next year, renault could now drop redbull (whos contract is up this year)

This could get messy all round and palmers the lynch pin here, when he goes all hells gonna break loose


Okay ill elaborate where i can>

If Kubica came back into the fold, at palmers expense its because renault mean buisness and they do have big ambitions for next year, redbull have be highly critical of Renault for nearly 5 years now, this came to a head 2 years ago, when red bull had a stop only to go crawling back to renault, and renault only agreed to sell engines to redbull again after bernie himself interviended to smooth over the cracks, well that contracts has an option at the end of the year for redbull and renault to part ways, my moneys on this happening, in palmer is dropped, because renault as a full works team wont want to be beaten by red bull, the french company is very proud, and sees redbull as a major splot on is repuation.

Futher more, the italian press are reporting that alfa have already purchased mclarren, they will ferrari power next year, badged alfa, and the end of a british racing legacy will be complete. Make sure everyone at woking pats ron on the back, and last one out turns of the lights.

But all of that will depend on them dumping palmer.


APerfectSquare and Cyber, would you guys care to elaborate?

I’ve sensed that Alfa are in the wings in terms of re-badged Ferrari PU’s, if not a complete Alfa Romeo team, but my heat-addled brain can’t get round the bits about Palmer being the lynch pin or Renault dumping Red Bull?


Exactly @APerfectSquare!
And could this even mean the end of McLaren in F1? CEO Marchionne could ditch the McLaren name and rebrand the team ‘Alfa Romeo Squadra Corse’ as he has hinted in the past about bringing the historic manufacturer back in to F1 racing to promote their sporting image. Who cares about Honda then, as their contract even has drop clause in case of change of ownership.


Renault owe it to JP to give him the full season to prove himself. I wish him all the best.

Richard Williams

Please, someone put Jean Erica Verne in there!


It’s true he’s had shockingly bad luck right? Every time his name come sup it’s around a car failure right?
I do think he’s got questions to answer but even Massa has better luck and that’s saying something…


this is the tenth new headline since the end of the race on sunday so palmer will knuckle down to do what he needs to do, score points. it appears as though the mob have turned their attention from stroll to palmer almost as if palmer has only just started racing..

søren christensen

In many ways, I feel sad for Jolly Palmer – and especially the way he and his backers have been treated by Renault all year. There is not much doubt, that Renault, as stated by Magnussen last year, were only interested in an interim driver to fill the 2.seat in 2017. A nice sponsor contribution to help pay for the Hulk was welcome, which Palmer was able to satisfy.
With most of the race engineer capacities allocated to the high profile Hulkenberg, it is now clear, that Palmer will end in the bin with F1 rejects before end of 2017.
Once again, we see the strange way of people management by Mr. Abiteboul. This kind of public blame culture is so typical for him, and a serious team manager like Fred Vasseur would never have done this. Magnussen called the bluff of Abiteboul, and made a clever decision in 2016 to join Haas on a multiple (salaried) contract.
Abiteboul needs positive press to protect himself, so I guess, he will go for the popular choice of Kubica to fill the 2.seat from after Silverstone.
If a success, everyone is happy. If not, Kubica will be easy to kick out, and replaced from 2018 with Sainz.
If Palmer could eat his own words in 2016, where he was very critical of Magnussen for his reasons to give Renault the pink slip, in favor of taking a much better and serious deal at Haas, I am sure he would.


@soren, Re: Abiteboul protecting himself -i’ve wondered previously about the security of his position -especially in the wake of the drama with RB. I’ve come to the conclusion that he must have sex tapes of all of his superiors….there’s no other way he could have remained in F1 this long!


Don´t forget Felipe Nasr whom is working for a comeback in F1 in 2018 at the latest…


….. and who Palmer had the beating of in GP2 in 2013/14. Nasr’s demeanour reminds me of Nelson Piquet snr, who I’m also trying to forget …..


I genuinely think it will be Kubica. (if he genuinely wants it and is sure he is able).

Firstly, it’s phenomenal PR for the team, which will likely lead to more sponsors. Secondly his feedback for developing the team is known to be excellent, thirdly, he’s free and available at short notice and fourthly…. It is an absolutely zero risk gamble on the teams side. He’d be replacing a driver contributing absolutely nothing. If Kubica is well off the pace nobody will be critical of him, he will have an opportunity to get up to speed over a few races at no cost to the team given the fact he is replacing somebody not scoring points, worst case scenario from the teams side, they still have a car not scoring points. If it works out, they have a rekindled world class driver on their hands who will drive the team forward, plus all the benefits of the story, the PR, attention etc.


It won’t be Kubica sorry mate.


Palmer needs to fiercely concentrate on getting the technicals right. Poorly perfoming cars like this have got a lot of technical weaknesses. He needs to have some ego and see hulkenberg as a teammate he must try to beat all the time. He must work well with his engineers to stabilize as best as he can,the car’s inherent technical instabilities ( setups/car balance etc ) ;or else he wouldn’t be able to put his foot on the pedal and drive as fast as he would like to . Maldonado struggled too after he left the familiar Williams environment. It is all about the technicals; it goes hand in hand with pace.


If kubica was 0.45 seconds quicker than sirotkin like mark Hughes wrote, and if kubica is as fit as he says he (fitter than in 06-10 and weighing less than since 08) then sirotkin should not be considered. Who else can jump into an f1 car after 6 years and be immediately fast, these new guys are struggling to be fast in f1 cars even after much testing and many races (palmer and vandoorne)


100+ laps for Kubica is not a basic test appearance – this would have cost the team a lot of money and wouldn’t be something they would offer if there was no value to it. If they were just being nice, I can imagine a lap count of 20 or so would be more like it.

This brings Sirotkin into question: he was at that test, and by some accounts was considerably slower than a guy that only a few years ago was in danger of losing an arm. Sirotkin has been on the periphery for too long, and I think has no realistic chance of racing in F1 anymore. Why on earth would Renault plug someone in that has already proven slower to someone else?

Buemi would have some merit, he may be out of an F1 drive but there must be a reason that Red Bull kept him on the payroll – even if it is for development and to provide a benchmark.


I was shocked that Renault kept him in 2017.


If Renault are serious about succeeding over the next couple of seasons before the FIA changes the Hybrid PU engine regs for 2020, they can really only go for one driver … Alonso.
They have spent hundreds of million$ returning to F1 as a “Works Team” but hey are lacking in the development side of the garage.
They’ve stuck with Palmer as a cheaper option for 2017 while they set themselves up for a huge tilt at the top 3 teams in 2018.
They say they have got a positive change coming for their PU and it’s obvious by Hulk’s Quali and race results that they have done mountains of work on their chassis. The one thing missing now is a top level driver combination to take the cars to the next level.
Hulk is a damn good driver who can develop a race car but unfortunately, Palmer isn’t. Jo spends far too much time off track for various reasons and he doesn’t have the stoic demeanour of a champion when dealing with the negatives. He’s far to hard on himself and the team which creates an environment where he doesn’t work well with the engineers. He has become a liability.
Renault will be a force to reckon with IF they do have the package they envisage for 2018.
The only thing missing is Alonso!


I reckon Jo Palmer is safe for the rest of year -not for any other reason other than Renault is down the musical chairs list that has to play out before the music stops on the Renault chair.
First up is Kimi’s seat at Ferrari -my money (and hope) is on Ricciardo (assuming he can get out of his contract. If so then Sainz takes his seat. If Ric stays, then Sainz is a good option for Renault -although i imagine RB might only loan him -Sainz is RB’s insurance policy against either RIC or VER leaving in 2017/18/19. I think that’s a win/win/win as Sainz gets an alternative drive in a works team, but still has a parachute back to RB. RB gets to effectively keep their guy happy, but still has dibbs on him when and if they need him -it also gives them more leverage over Renault.
The music will also stop in a way not on a seat, but on Alonso. What he decides to do will have an impact on Renault’s decision making -if he were available and affordable to Renault, i’m sure they would take him before Sainz.

Given that Renault status as a works team will only continue to improve – i don’t see any other “new” drivers (Sirotkin, Buemi, Kubica et al), getting a look in as the more established drivers will be lining up before them.
Not sure of Grosjean’s contract status, but wouldn’t be surprised to see both he and Ocon on Renault’s wishlist for the next few years as well.


said it at Monaco time last year, palmer is out of his depth in f1
I was surprised he was given the second seat at Renault this season, regardless the results will speak for him so I don’t really have to

reckon Renault would be better trying anyone else in the seat, at least there’s something new to be learned there


It all depends on who will replace Kimi at Ferrari next year and who will replace Massa at Williams…


looks like Massa will stay at Williams, reports already have him talks about one more year contract.

Or who knows, maybe Joylon will take his dady’s money to williams and play along with stroll in wiliams/honda cars around the world lol.


For me, RF1 Team car is so so so much off the pace that first of all they need someone who will develop the car!!!! – just bring the car back to the front – the only option for me is to hire Kubica as a test driver / second driver… the tenth driver… whatever – make a good car, then they can think about signing someone. To be honest who can give the best advice to engineers from listed guys? So first things first Kubica is the only option to bring the car back…


It’s been a long time coming. Palmer hasn’t once, since his coming into F1, shown any kind of promise as a competitive driver. Let’s give some real talent a chance… this is F1 for gods sake!

Torchwood Mobile

I would love for Kubica to finish the 2017 season.

I want to say that this pressure on Jolyon is unfair; you cannot bench the GP2 champion for a year, and not expect some fall in performance.
But my argument falls apart rather quickly; Magnussen watched from the sidelines for a year, and he is doing better.

I think Renault should divide the rest of the season into three, and let Jolyon, Kubica, and Sirotkin all have races. Whomever does best, gets 2018.


Kubica, Kubica, Kubica!!!!

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