Jolyon Palmer, who has re-signed to race for the squad in 2017, was in inspired form in Abu Dhabi in which Lewis Hamilton (Formula Renault UK Champion in 2003) just missed out on a fourth F1 drivers’ title.
Palmer went from 15th on the grid to 11th by the end of the first lap and looked to be comfortably staying in the hunt for a top ten points finish until problems later in the race.
His R.S.16 car started suffering badly from excessive tyre degradation and then a tangle with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz forced him to make a pit stop repairs and earned him a five-second time penalty. He was classified 17th at the finish.
Team-mate Kevin Magnussen was forced to retire from the event early on after his car was damaged in a brush with two other rivals but he had been there at the end in Brazil – a race that was made memorable because of heavy rain that made driving conditions perilous.
Magnussen was able to come through the murk to finish an eventual 14th at the spectacular Interlagos circuit after starting 18th on the grid. This time however it was Palmer’s turn to suffer a retirement, his car damaged in another skirmish with a Torro Rosso – that of Daniil Kvyat!
While Palmer stays with Renault Sport Formula One Team for 2017, Magnussen’s place will be taken over by Nico Hulkenberg.
After the Abu Dhabi race, Palmer commented: “I had a really good start – up to 11th – and was keeping pace with the Williams for a while but, unfortunately, the tyre degradation was unbelievable for us.
“The overall pace was OK, but the tyres were running out which meant I had to do three stops. I was trying to fight with everyone through the race but I had no grip which makes it very difficult. I tried to pass Carlos as he left a gap, but he braked a bit early and I had no grip to slow down. It’s a real shame.”
Team Principal Fred Vasseur said: “That was not the Grand Prix we wanted to end our season. Kevin’s race was cut short as a result of front suspension damage sustained on the first lap; then Jolyon’s great start didn’t translate to a great finish come the chequered flag.
“Today’s result should not detract from all the progress made at Viry and Enstone over the last year as we will be in a far better position to fight for more points next season. Thank you to Kevin in his final race for us; he is a popular driver and we wish him well for the future.
“Congratulations to this year’s champions, Nico Rosberg and Mercedes AMG. They have shown us how championships can be won with fine displays through the season. We hope to be giving them more of a challenge over the next few years.”