McLaren explore Vandoorne’s chances of a 2017 Renault drive

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A heartbreaking spin for Britain’s Jolyon Palmer prevented the Renault driver from taking what appeared to be a ‘nailed on’ first points finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

After a season of struggles thus far for Renault aswell as the Englishman, a self-proclaimed ‘best drive of my career’, was just what the doctor ordered. Palmer started the race in a lowly 17th place after repeated red flags ruined his opportunity in qualifying to show off the improved single lap pace from the Enstone chassis.

In the race, Joylon ran a long first stint climbing as high as P9 as Renault plotted a way through the field. Just prior to the second pit stop, the Renault was harassing the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg and nboth entered the pit lane at the same time. A slick switch of tyres from the Renault mechanics saw Jolyon in front of the German. Hulkenberg admitted later he let the clutch slip, causing his crew difficulties and lost time.

Palmer was now in a comfortable 10th position and registered the 7th fastest lap of the race at this stage, all the signs of a points finish were there.

Then, on lap 49 Jolyon had a high speed spin at turn 4, and with it the hopes of bringing home a point disappeared.

A disappointed Palmer reflected: “I’m gutted as my first points in Formula 1 were there for the taking. The car was good and I was driving well within myself in P10. I turned in the same as normal at turn four – I wasn’t hanging everything out and I was looking after the tyres – but for some reason I lost the car in a massive snap.

“I need to look at everything with my engineers to see if there is anything we could have done to prevent it. I was running tenth, we had completed all our pit stops, we had good pace relative to those ahead and behind so it looks like we’ve made a real step forward this weekend.

“It was the best drive of my career today and just one small spin took away those points. I’m gutted but I’ll be fighting to get in the same position or better in Hockenheim.”

Palmer finished the race P12, and with the small consolation he was ahead of team mate Magnussen, yet the British driver appears to be under more pressure than the Dane to retain his drive for Enstone in 2017.

 

Prior to the Hungarian GP weekend, paddock rumours were circulating that McLaren were looking to place Stoffel Vandoorne with the Renault team in 2017. Whilst good news for Jenson, this appears to be not so for Palmer, who became visibly more animated as disappointment after disappointment racked up in Budapest.

Team spokesman Andy Stobart was asked by Danish publication BT, what the Renault driver lineup would be for 2017. “It’s too early for us to start discussing what should happen next year,” he replied.

When asked about the option Renault are believed to have on Magnussen for next year and when it expires, Stobart was resolute: “It’s a private matter between us and Kevin Magnussen,” he insisted.

Other names mentioned as possible drivers for Renault in 2017 have been the talented young Esteban Ocon and Felipe Massa.

Massa is out of contract at Williams who also are confirming nothing for next year, but with a possible return of James Allison, an experienced driver to help develop the car may well be preferred.

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