Stoffel Vandoorne and Jolyon Palmer – two of the most impressive junior formulae talents of 2014. As a pairing, they took the top two spots in the GP2 Series last year, with Palmer emerging as clear victor.
Vandoorne secured 2nd ahead of Formula One bound Felipe Nasr at the final round in Abu Dhabi in November.
Yet as February turns and Formula One testing begins in earnest, both are, to a degree, on the outside looking in.
Admittely in the past, I have offered plenty of criticism in Palmer’s case, but one cannot underestimate the job he did last year – he was the deserved GP2 Series champion, but that has not necessarily been a passage to Formula One success in recent years. Just ask Giorgio Pantano, Davide Valsecchi or Fabio Leimer.
And so Palmer – recently announced as reserve driver with Lotus – has much to do in the coming year to make sure he does not slip through the cracks.
Yet whether he likes it or not, his fate may have spin on a money tuned spindle. One can only hope his future is not sold down the river by Lotus. That would be especially cruel at this stage, but they do have form.
Vandoorne, meanwhile, has been placed in a sort of no mans land. The Belgian was noticeably absent from the McLaren driver reveal in December and that is a worry indeed for Vandoorne is simply far too good to be sitting on the sidelines. Once both he and ART GP had found their feet, Vandoorne was impressive, displaying again the speed and talent that was clear in his FR3.5 days.
Vandoorne is still listed as a development driver at McLaren, but often that means different things to different teams. For some, it will mean the opportunity to test or do Friday FP1 sessions; for others it means just occasional simulator times, but when McLaren’s 3rd driver Kevin Magnussen has no chance of FP1 drives this year, then what hope for the guy further back in line?
Either way, the top two in GP2 from 2014 are not getting the airing they deserve this year. The FIA can come up with all the Superlicence points regulations they want, but it does not solve the issue of drivers getting shut out by commercial circumstances beyond their control.