Feature: Which F1 drivers need a big race?

Feature: Which F1 drivers need a big race?

16 June 2017 – We're over a third of the way into the new Formula 1 campaign and a handful of drivers are struggling to make their mark on the championship. GPUpdate.net looks at those who need a couple of strong drives.

As ever in sport, the talent level is so high that those towards the back can be regarded as 'no hopers' even when they are among an elite group. The situation is the same in Formula 1, with only 20 drivers on the grid at any one time. Here are a quartet who, across the next few races, require a step up in performance on a sustained basis.

Jolyon Palmer
Qualifying gap to team-mate: +1.198s
Percentage of team points scored: 0%

Palmer's reputation within Renault was demonstrated by the number of drivers it sounded out for 2017 before eventually retaining the Briton, who had steadily grown in confidence over the course of an initially rocky rookie campaign. A return of one point was lacklustre, but Palmer was driving an evil-handling machine with a sub-par power unit, stemming from Renault's short pre-2016 preparations. He was granted a second season to prove himself but matters have stalled, and he has no points – to Hülkenberg's 18 – and five Q1 eliminations, while Hülkenberg has made Q3 on four occasions. This, understandably, has made a huge difference; in starting an average of six places behind his team-mate, Palmer enters races already playing catch-up. Weekend-scuppering crashes in Australia and Russia also did little to assist his cause. He has conceded that it is up to him to deliver points for the team, while team chief Cyril Abiteboul has challenged him to improve his one-lap pace. The hype surrounding Robert Kubica, and the presence of tester Sergey Sirotkin, only adds to the pressure. If Palmer is to prove his worth in race-trim, he needs to stop putting himself at a disadvantage – but it may be too late already.

Lance Stroll
Qualifying gap to team-mate: +0.901s
Percentage of team points scored: 9%

Stroll claimed his maiden Formula 1 points through a measured drive in Canada, with Williams hopeful that it will boost his confidence. However, compliments have so far been slightly excessive for a driver who, in pure stone-cold facts, finished ninth with the fourth- or fifth-fastest car in Montréal, after a string of retirements. Previously, Stroll had a chastening start to his Formula 1 career, raising suggestions that he had been promoted too soon, despite his extensive private testing in 2016. Making Q3 in China was a positive, but his qualifying pace since has been underwhelming, falling at the first hurdle across the past three races, albeit his Canada exit partly down to Williams' perplexing strategy, keeping him out on Ultra Softs. Stroll's points followed a run of six races outside of the top 10, some not of his doing (collisions in China and Bahrain), while he squandered points with an amateurish first-lap spin in Russia. Elsewhere, understanding the tyres has been a big challenge – normal for a rookie – while his Monaco showing was typical for a newcomer to the Principality. Stroll's task now is to build on his maiden points, close the gap to Felipe Massa in qualifying, and continue adding to Williams' tally. Helpfully, post-Baku, Stroll will enter a run of circuits at which he has previous experience, either in F3 or private testing.

Stoffel Vandoorne
Qualifying gap to team-mate: +0.473s
Percentage of team points scored: N/A

Vandoorne's success in junior categories was outstanding but his transition to Formula 1 has proved troublesome; he has escaped Q1 only once and his performances in races have been disappointing. In Spain he clumsily collided with Felipe Massa, while in Monaco he nerfed the wall at the restart, having crashed in qualifying 24 hours earlier. Canada, though, starkly exposed Vandoorne's deficiencies. In Monaco, there was a more confident aura, after some thorough investigations, but in Montréal a comparison with Fernando Alonso, previously tricky amid McLaren-Honda's troubles, was not good reading for Vandoorne. The pair ran similar strategies, with Vandoorne ahead of Alonso early on, but the 25-year-old sunk down the order. The gap grew steadily across the opening stint, and sat at 20-seconds at the pit-stops. It had grown to 36 seconds by the time that Alonso retired. After their respective stops, Alonso was faster on each of the following 18 laps, aside from the tour on which he was lapped. It is stark stuff. Nevertheless, there are caveats. Vandoorne is still inexperience in F1 terms, grappling with an inconsistent and unreliable power unit, and he also has to adapt to ever-changing machinery after years in single-make, standard part cars. Vandoorne is also up against a two-time World Champion who has made mincemeat of most of his past team-mates. McLaren retains faith in a youngster it has nurtured, believing Vandoorne to be champion material, but an upturn in form is required.

Daniil Kvyat
Qualifying gap to team-mate: +0.029s
Percentage of team points scored: 14%

Kvyat's retention for 2017 was met with surprise from some quarters but the Toro Rosso driver was given another chance to prove his worth. In qualifying, he and Carlos Sainz Jr. have been relatively matched in terms of pace – it's 4-3 in the Spaniard's favour – and only in Spain – where Kvyat went horribly wrong with the set-up of a very sensitive car – has the gap between the pair ballooned. However, whereas Sainz Jr. has scored 25 points via five top-10 finishes, Kvyat has collected four, with two ninth-place results. There have, however, been mitigating circumstances. A hydraulics failure stranded Kvyat in China, he was hit by Sergio Pérez while on course for points in Monaco, an engine stall skewered his race in Canada, while his points in Spain were achieved from last on the grid – an impressive charge through the field. But Kvyat could do with a truly standout drive to remind the world of his talent, for he remains fourth priority within Red Bull's quartet. On his side is Toro Rosso's open attitude to more experienced drivers, and the lack of alternatives elsewhere, with only GP2 champion Pierre Gasly – plying his trade in Super Formula – a realistic 2018 candidate.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Friday 23 June 2017

  2. 09:42

    Follow first practice for the Azerbaijan GP!

    F1
  3. Ericsson: Inequality rumours 'disrespectful' 08:48

    Ericsson: Inequality rumours 'disrespectful'

    Marcus Ericsson has labelled suggestions that he is receiving preferential treatment over Sauber team-mate Pascal Wehrlein as…

    F1
  4. Hamilton: Bottas has earned 2018 stay 08:34

    Hamilton: Bottas has earned 2018 stay

    Lewis Hamilton believes that new team-mate Valtteri Bottas has proven that he has "earned his place" at Mercedes for the…

    F1
  5. Aleshin working to resolve visa issues 08:10

    Aleshin working to resolve visa issues

    Mikhail Aleshin is in a race against time to compete at this weekend's Kohler Grand Prix at Road America, amid visa issues, with…

    Indy
  6. Grosjean feels in 'good position' for Ferrari 07:12

    Grosjean feels in 'good position' for Ferrari

    Haas driver Romain Grosjean believes that he is in a "good position" to claim a seat at Ferrari for the 2018 season, should a…

    F1
  7. Video of the Day: Prost back in Monaco 05:34

    Video of the Day: Prost back in Monaco

    Alain Prost recently returned to Monaco's streets as he tested the Renault ZOE e-Sport Concept.

    FE
  8. Thursday 22 June 2017

  9. Smith poised to return from injury at TT 17:32

    Smith poised to return from injury at TT

    Bradley Smith says he is ready to return to action at this weekend's Dutch TT, having sat out the previous race at the Circuit…

    MotoGP
  10. Ocon 'all good' with Pérez after tension 17:22

    Ocon 'all good' with Pérez after tension

    Esteban Ocon says he has cleared the air with Force India team-mate Sergio Pérez off the back of a tense situation at the…

    F1
  11. 17:02

    Follow us on Instagram for the best photos!

    F1
  12. 16:22

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Thursday at Baku

    F1
  13. Baku track gets second DRS detection point 16:02

    Baku track gets second DRS detection point

    A second DRS detection point has been added to the Baku City Circuit for this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The two DRS…

    F1
  14. Gutiérrez confirmed at DCR for rest of 2017 14:08

    Gutiérrez confirmed at DCR for rest of 2017

    Esteban Gutiérrez will replace the injured Sébastien Bourdais at Dale Coyne Racing for the remainder of the IndyCar…

    Indy
  15. Bottas relaxed over 2018 Mercedes contract 13:42

    Bottas relaxed over 2018 Mercedes contract

    Valtteri Bottas says there is "no rush" for him to secure his Formula 1 future with Mercedes for 2018, and insists his current…

    F1
  16. Räikkönen: 'No issues' with aiding Vettel title 13:08

    Räikkönen: 'No issues' with aiding Vettel title

    Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen has insisted that he has "no issues" with assisting team-mate Sebastian Vettel's title push, if and…

    F1
  17. Vandoorne also set for Baku grid drop 12:24

    Vandoorne also set for Baku grid drop

    Stoffel Vandoorne says he is set to join McLaren-Honda team-mate Fernando Alonso in taking engine-related grid penalties at this…

    F1
  18. Alonso expects open 2017/18 driver market 12:00

    Alonso expects open 2017/18 driver market

    Fernando Alonso says he expects there to be "a lot of changes" in the Formula 1 driver market across the coming months, and he…

    F1
  19. Pirelli goes softer for Belgium, Japan 10:25

    Pirelli goes softer for Belgium, Japan

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has moved one step softer with the compounds it has selected for events in Belgium and Japan…

    F1
  20. Blue flag rules modified for Azerbaijan 10:11

    Blue flag rules modified for Azerbaijan

    Formula 1 Race Director Charlie Whiting has confirmed that blue flag rules have been tweaked for drivers ahead of this weekend's…

    F1
  21. Miller to make Suzuka 8 Hours debut 09:48

    Miller to make Suzuka 8 Hours debut

    MotoGP rider Jack Miller will make his debut at the Suzuka 8 Hours next month with Honda, the Japanese manufacturer has…

    MotoGP
  22. FIA outlines minor Baku track changes 09:39

    FIA outlines minor Baku track changes

    The FIA has outlined minor safety-related changes to the Baku City Circuit, ahead of this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand…

    F1
  23. Video: Button on esports driving skills 09:34

    Video: Button on esports driving skills

    F1 champion Jenson Button talks about esports and the precision driving skills required by gamers.

    F1
  24. Webber: Alonso's situation is a 'travesty' 09:02

    Webber: Alonso's situation is a 'travesty'

    Ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Webber says it is an "absolute travesty" that Fernando Alonso is enduring a third successive season in…

    F1
  25. Domenicali: Lowering junior costs a priority 07:12

    Domenicali: Lowering junior costs a priority

    FIA Single Seater Commission chief Stefano Domenicali says lowering the cost of competing in junior formulas – especially…

    F2
  26. Video of the Day: Azerbaijan GP preview 05:28

    Video of the Day: Azerbaijan GP preview

    Azerbaijan Grand Prix organisers look ahead to this weekend's event with a preview teaser video.

    F1
  27. Wednesday 21 June 2017

  28. Sauber confirms Kaltenborn's departure 23:04

    Sauber confirms Kaltenborn's departure

    Sauber has confirmed that Monisha Kaltenborn has relinquished her role as Sauber's team boss, due to "diverging views of the…

    F1
  29. Sauber insists drivers being treated equally 22:50

    Sauber insists drivers being treated equally

    Sauber has hit back at media reports suggesting that its drivers are not being treated equally, in the wake of Monisha…

    F1
  30. F1: UK's 2019-24 pay TV deal 'immutable' 16:22

    F1: UK's 2019-24 pay TV deal 'immutable'

    Formula 1's new commercial chief, Sean Bratches, has made clear that the sport will not be shown on free-to-air (FTA) TV in the…

    F1
  31. Viñales: Yamaha 'needs' podium finish 15:42

    Viñales: Yamaha 'needs' podium finish

    Maverick Viñales says that he and Yamaha "need" to record a podium finish at this weekend's Dutch TT, following the team's…

    MotoGP
  32. Rins gets green light for Assen comeback 14:15

    Rins gets green light for Assen comeback

    Suzuki has confirmed that Álex Rins will return to racing at this weekend's Dutch TT. Rins stepped up to the premier class…

    MotoGP
  33. 13:38

    Latest F1 photos: Preparations in Baku

    F1
  34. In photos: Baku gears up for Azerbaijan GP 13:36

    In photos: Baku gears up for Azerbaijan GP

    F1 will make its second visit to the Baku City Circuit this weekend, this time under the Azerbaijan Grand Prix banner.…

    F1
  35. Todt wants 12 teams on Formula 1 grid 12:01

    Todt wants 12 teams on Formula 1 grid

    FIA President Jean Todt has stated that he hopes to increase the size of the Formula 1 grid again in the near future, with 12…

    F1
  36. Crutchlow sticks with LCR through 2019 11:05

    Crutchlow sticks with LCR through 2019

    Cal Crutchlow will continue to race for LCR Honda for the next two MotoGP seasons, after the outfit extended its deal with the…

    MotoGP
  37. Kaltenborn departs as Sauber team boss 10:42

    Kaltenborn departs as Sauber team boss

    Monisha Kaltenborn has left her role as Sauber's team boss, GPUpdate.net understands. Back in 2012, Kaltenborn became Formula…

    F1
  38. Video: Baku City Circuit virtual flying lap 10:12

    Video: Baku City Circuit virtual flying lap

    Get a refresher of the Baku City Circuit with a virtual lap on last year's official Formula 1 game.

    F1
  39. Carey: Liberty will not 're-do' F1 calendar 09:02

    Carey: Liberty will not 're-do' F1 calendar

    Earlier this week, F1 unveiled its 2018 calendar, the first under Liberty Media. GPUpdate.net got CEO Chase Carey's view, plus…

    F1
  40. Pérez reckons 'big points' possible in Baku 08:26

    Pérez reckons 'big points' possible in Baku

    Sergio Pérez believes Force India can target "big points" at this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, due to its 2017 form and its…

    F1
  41. Preview: Formula 1 heads back to Baku 07:22

    Preview: Formula 1 heads back to Baku

    After Formula 1's recent voyage to North America, the sport now heads to the other side of the world, for the Azerbaijan Grand…

    F1
  42. Video of the Day: Ferrari previews Baku 05:30

    Video of the Day: Ferrari previews Baku

    Ferrari previews this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix by analysing the key parts of the Baku City Circuit.

    F1
  43. Tuesday 20 June 2017

  44. Wolff: Mercedes won't rush Bottas decision 17:42

    Wolff: Mercedes won't rush Bottas decision

    Toto Wolff says that Mercedes "will not rush into a decision" over Valtteri Bottas' future, despite his largely competitive…

    F1
more news