Great Britain’s Jolyon Palmer arrived on the F1 grid in 2016, eager to impress after a year spent as the Renault (formerly Lotus) team’s test and reserve driver, during which he racked up numerous Friday practice appearances for the Enstone squad.
One could argue Palmer was always destined for a career in motorsport, with his father Jonathan a veteran of 82 F1 starts in the 1980s - with teams including Williams and Tyrrell - and an owner of several UK race circuits.
Born in Horsham in 1991, Jolyon started out in karts, but was already racing cars at the age of 14 in the T Car championship - a saloon car series for drivers aged 14 to 17. His first full year of competition in 2006 saw him scoring four podiums en route to fifth in the table, as well as dominating the T Car Autumn Trophy with four wins from six races.
He graduated to single-seaters for 2007 and the series originally created by his father, Formula Palmer Audi. After a slow start he went on to finish tenth overall, with victories at Brands Hatch and Oulton Park, but missed the final two rounds thanks to a quad bike injury.
Recovered for 2008, Palmer was a title challenger for much of the season, eventually clinching third in the standings with the highlight his victory in the series’ overseas round at Spa-Franchorchamps in Belgium.
He moved up to the FIA Formula Two Championship for 2009, but real success did not come until the following year when he won the opening round at Silverstone, making him the first British F2 victor since his father at Mugello, Italy in 1983. A further four triumphs propelled him to the championship’s runner-up spot behind compatriot Dean Stoneman.
His climb up the motorsport ladder continued with GP2 in 2011. He was quickly scoring top-ten finishes, but the real breakthrough came at the season-ending, non-championship GP2 Finals, where a move from the Arden International to the Barwa Addax team saw his take his first podium result in the category.
The 2012 season saw Palmer paired with fellow future F1 star Marcus Ericsson at the iSport International team. Reliability issues plagued the early part of his season, but aided by a new chassis he recovered to score his maiden GP2 win in Monaco and ultimately finish 11th in the final standings.
He moved up to seventh in the table in 2013, this time driving alongside Felipe Nasr at Carlin, before moving to DAMs for 2014. A win in the Bahrain sprint race saw him leave the season-opening round with a championship lead that he would never surrender. With a further three wins he wrapped up the title with three rounds to spare and a record points total. He topped off his year by making his F1 test debut with Force India at the post-season session in Abu Dhabi.
That led to a full-time position for 2015 as the Lotus F1 team’s reserve and development driver - a role that also gave him track time in Friday practice sessions at 13 of the year’s 19 Grands Prix. Clearly impressed with his efforts, the team duly handed him a race seat alongside Kevin Magnussen for 2016, their first campaign as Renault’s new works effort.
Palmer acquitted himself well against the more experienced Dane, as the team endured a tough year of transition. He may have scored only once - a tenth place in Malaysia - but showed enough grit, determination, speed and maturity to be retained for 2017.