The Australian Grand Prix has been the opening race of the Formula 1 season for eighteen of the last twenty years. Being the first step into the World Championship for rookie drivers, the 2016 season saw three rookies start their F1 careers, Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto.
#30 – Jolyon Palmer – Britain – Renault Sport Formula 1 Team
After participating in practice sessions for the Lotus F1 Team in 2015, Palmer was promoted to a race seat when the Enstone-based team was brought out by Renault, becoming Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. In his debut at the Australian Grand Prix, the Briton qualified in fourteenth, then finished the race just outside the points in eleventh one place ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen. Palmer’s luck ran out at the Bahrain Grand Prix as due a hydraulic failure on the formation lap, he was unable to start.
Bouncing back from the disappointing second round, Palmer qualified for the Chinese Grand Prix in nineteenth but was unable to improve his position and finished the race dead last, and described this weekend as the worst of his entire racing career. At the Russian Grand Prix, Palmer qualified in eighteenth and after avoiding the crashed in Turn Two and Turn Three, he finished the Grand Prix in thirteenth, having run inside the top ten during the early stages but was unable to keep up with team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who finished seventh.
He also avoided a collision with Carlos Sainz Jr after the Spaniard forced Palmer off the track during an overtaking manoeuvre.
Palmer has not been helped by a car that has been troublesome and relatively uncompetitive this season, but his team hold him in high regard, especially with the meticulous way he is trying to learn about racing in Formula 1.
#94 – Pascal Wehrlein – Germany – Manor Racing
Pascal Wehrlein joined Palmer as a F1 rookie this season. The German was named as Manor Racing’s first race driver in February after becoming the youngest ever champion in DTM last year with Mercedes-Benz. In his first F1 race at Albert Park, Wehrlein finished the race in sixteenth but due to six retirements, this was last place. Following on from this in Bahrain, he improved his finish to thirteenth, four places in front of team-mate Rio Haryanto.
So far, Wehrlein’s position of sixteenth for qualifying in Bahrain is his best result. During qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, he brought out the red flags in Q1 after hitting a small crest along the start-finish straight where standing water had gathered on one side on the drying track. This moment was disappointing for Wehrlein but he put it behind him before the race to finish eighteenth ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean.
Wehrlein qualified in Russia in twentieth, ahead of Haryanto but ended the Grand Prix as the last classified finisher down in eighteenth. He managed to avoid all the problems in the first couple of corners and also had a good fight with the Saubers but a problematic pit stop cost him the opportunity to finish higher up the order.
It’s probably fair to say that Wehrlein has been the best of the rookies so far, and it is clear to why Mercedes hold him with so much revere.
#88 – Rio Haryanto – Indonesia – Manor Racing
Manor are the only team on the grid to have two rookie drivers, along-side Wehrlein, Haryanto joins him. The Indonesian had a good start to his F1 career when he qualified in twenty-first ahead of team-mate Wehrlein in Australia but his luck ran out before the race after it was cut short due to a drivetrain issue. Bouncing back from his disappointing debut, Haryanto managed to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix in seventeenth.
In China, Haryanto qualified in twentieth after both Wehrlein and Lewis Hamilton failed to set qualifying times. He managed to hold off the Renault of Palmer to finish in twenty-first, a battle he was pleased about. At the Sochi Autodrom in Russia, Haryanto was able to qualify ahead of the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson. His luck ran out after becoming an innocent victim of a first lap collision between Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, leading to a retirement after sustaining damage to his MRT05.
Whereas Wehrlein is getting all the plaudits, Haryanto should not be ashamed of his own performances, and coming up on tracks he knows well, he should start to put more pressure on his highly rated team-mate.