Google+ Jack Leslie F1: How the F1 2016 rookies have fared after 12 races

17 August 2016

How the F1 2016 rookies have fared after 12 races

The Formula 1 summer break gives us a great chance to reflect on the performances of the 2016 rookie drivers. 
© Manor
Four racers have made their debuts this season, with three competing in all 12 rounds. Let’s take a look at how they’ve done so far.

I’ll start off with Jolyon Palmer, Renault’s second driver alongside Kevin Magnussen. The British driver won the GP2 championship at his fourth attempt in 2014 and was the team’s reserve driver last year, in its Lotus guise. 

I’ve never really rated Palmer that highly, his GP2 title victory was clearly deserved but he’d had three previous seasons with the car and was driving for the front-running team. It was his to lose. But nevertheless it was good to see a new British driver on the grid. 

Renault has struggled this season. It’s a year of rebuilding for the Enstone-based outfit after last year’s financial woes and problems, so the car is underdeveloped. Palmer hasn’t had an easy start to his F1 career but he’s been regularly out-paced by Magnussen in both qualifying and the races. 

Rookies need time to find their feet and this has certainly been evident with Palmer. There have been some quiet, anonymous races where he’s been some way off the pace of Magnussen, but he’s also enjoyed some decent performances too. 
© Renault

11th in Australia was hyped up to much, Magnussen had a puncture on lap one and still managed to finish close behind him. He’s suffered some incidents – his crash in Monaco being one example – but he came close to points in Austria and Hungary, where a top 10 looked possible before a late spin. 

He’s had a solid rookie year to date but needs to pick up pace and step it up a notch in the second half of the season. Magnussen has shone far brighter and with Renault starting to explore its options for 2017, Palmer needs to turn things around – and fast. Manor opted for two rookies in 2016, both bringing something different to the table. 

Pascal Wehrlein is highly-rated and we’ve seen why in his maiden F1 campaign so far. The German driver has been a Mercedes reserve driver and tested for several teams, including Force India, before his first F1 race. 

Having won the DTM championship 2015, Wehrlein was brought in to Manor to lead its recovery charge. 2015 was tough for the entire team, running with a modified, year-old car, but Manor has been far more competitive with its new F1 machine and Mercedes power-unit. 

Wehrlein has given Manor reason to smile with some stunning performances on both Saturday and Sunday. He’s even brought the team back into Q2 and a great drive in Austria yielded his first F1 point with 10th place. The youngster has proven why he’s a young star being tipped for big things and I’m excited to see how his career will progress, particularly with the various links he has to other teams. 

Over on the other side of the garage at Manor has been Rio Haryanto. His best GP2 campaign in 2015 was still a bit underwhelming and he brought welcome backing from Indonesia, making his debut in Australia. 
© McLaren

He’s been overshadowed throughout by Wehrlein, although on the rare occasion he has been close to him, if not slightly better. But overall it’s not been a great 12 races for Haryanto and sadly for him, he’s lost his seat after failing to meet his contractual obligations. 

We knew mid-way through the first part of the season that he was struggling with sponsorship but his misfortune has opened the door for another exciting rookie, Renault F1 reserve driver Esteban Ocon, who will be racing in Spa. 

Finally, a mention for Stoffel Vandoorne, who replaced Fernando Alonso for the Bahrain Grand Prix after the two-time world champion’s Australia crash. The Belgian racer dominated GP2 in 2015 and is undoubtedly the brightest young star not in F1 right now. 

So there were high expectations for Vandoorne despite his rushed arrival in Bahrain. He was the faster McLaren in qualifying and put in a strong, mature performance on Sunday to score a point with 10th place on his debut. Very impressive, but not particularly surprising given his track record in junior categories. 

With no full-time drive, he’s currently keeping his skills sharp in the Japanese Super Formula series, but hopefully an opening will appear for Vandoorne to debut in 2017. He certainly deserves a race seat.

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