“Drivers of 2014: Jolyon Palmer”
There is little doubt that Jolyon Palmer was the deserved victor of the GP2 Series this year. Just when the 23-year-old really needed to step up, he did so and in a stylish manner, putting soon-to-be Formula One debutante Felipe Nasr in the shade for much of the season.
Yet if Palmer’s campaign did not necessarily mark him out as the next big thing – this was his fourth year in GP2 after all – it did confirm the conversion of a once gangly, quick but uncomfortable Palmer into an assured, confident racer, who had finally found his qualifying pace.
While Palmer has improved his single-lap pace, he was probably still not the absolute fastest raw driver in GP2. In terms of being the out-and-out best driver on the grid, the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne and Raffaele Marciello will most likely outshine him.
But what Palmer did manage – and this was very impressive – was his experience, natural abilities and intelligence to create a championship programme that stifled the opposition early doors.
The efforts of DAMS cannot be understated either. The French squad has proven incredibly successful in GP2 during recent seasons, with Palmer securing their 3rd driver’s crown, while DAMS took their 2nd teams’ crown. DAMS and Palmer appeared to gel instantly and from their first victory together in the Sprint race at Bahrain, they rarely looked back.
That Palmer’s chief rival, Nasr, appeared to sleepwalk through the opening round didn’t help the Brazilian’s charge. Nasr eventually picked up his first series win in Spain and continued to look strong intermittently – picking up further victories in Austria, Britain and Belgium – however there were simply too many anonymous days. Nasr’s non-defence against Palmer during the Sprint Race in Hungary said everything about the direction of the championship.
Up until Monza, Palmer had only taken two race wins, but it was his consistency that kept him close to the top all year. In twenty-two races, the Briton was on the podium thirteen times – precious few other competitors came close to matching that.
At Monza, Nasr failed to convert Palmer’s exclusion from qualifying into a meaningful result. In fact, where Palmer started from the pitlane, he notched up an 8th and then a Sprint race win, while Nasr managed two 6th place finishes from 7th and 3rd…
Another win for Palmer in Sochi sealed the deal three races early, while Nasr took a qualifying penalty and a pair of drive through penalties in the Russian Feature.
Alas, Palmer is looking like becoming the third consecutive GP2 Series champion to not progress to Formula One; however such was the length of time it took for Palmer to truly emerge, the Briton was always likely to have trouble finding a drive at the top level in 2015.