Formula One 2016 | The rookies on the rise

After a winter hiatus Formula One is nearly back and with that The Sport Space’s Formula One writer, Kyle Archer, returns to begin our look ahead to the 2016 season.

It’s that time of the year again when Formula One teams are prepping their trucks to head off around the world for pre-season testing and brush off the cobwebs of the winter. But for a few of the drivers, they are counting down the days until they can make their Formula One debuts. In this article we look at how Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto made their way into being Formula One drivers.

For the trio of rookies, all three in fact carry Formula One experience of some kind with them into their new roles as race drivers. For they all spent time at some stage of their careers as a test or reserve driver for a Formula One team.

Rio haryanto GP2 2014 - photo credit Jake Archibald

Rio Haryanto’s time as a test driver came all the way back in 2010 when he took the role with the Virgin Racing team who went on to become Marussia and now Manor. But his ties did not stop there with the Indonesian driver also participating in that years GP3 championship with the Manor team, which resulted in his chance to drive that years F1 car at the winter Abu Dhabi young driver test.

He continued on as part of Manor’s GP3 team for the following year where he gained one more race win and podium finish but could only finish the campaign seventh in the standings. Nevertheless onwards and upwards went Rio Haryanto as he moved into GP2, his 10th motorsport series following on from a variety of short stints across the globe and victory in the 2009 Formula BMW Pacific series.

Haryanto’s time in GP2 saw him race for four complete seasons with four different teams as well as two appearances at the 2011 GP2 final with DAMS. But it was far from a successful spell in his career with his first victory coming in his final year in the series.

Initially he was able to end his debut season with one pole and a fastest lap on his way to 14th in that season’s standings. His position however was 131-points behind his teammate, Max Chilton, who went on to gain a Formula One race seat with Marussia for the following year.

Max Chilton F1 2013 - photo credit Jow McGowan

With his now departed teammate in Formula One, the following year saw Haryanto fall down to 19th while he was able to claim his first podium in the championship. A feat he matched in 2014 on way to 15th in the standings. But as mentioned, his best year came in his now final GP2 season when the Indonesian driver took three wins and five podiums on route to fourth in the championship with 138-points.

His maiden victory came in the first weekend of the season as he fended off competition from the likes of McLaren’s new reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne to take the chequered flag in first.

But while Haryanto is now a Formula One driver, his appointment marks the end (for now at least) of Alex Rossi and Will Stevens’ Formula One careers with the pair pushed out of the team. Alex Rossi incidentally believed he had secured the Manor seat only to be told Haryanto had doubled the amount of money his Indonesian state backers could provide to ensure Rio raced in 2016.

Pascal Wehrlein, the Mercedes-Benz DTM wunderkind, meanwhile will fill the other Manor seat alongside Haryanto. And like Haryanto, money played a factor in securing him a race seat as the team has made no secrete off in the past that their drivers must come with financial backing.

Pascal Wehrlein in his Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM, HWA - Team AMG Mercedes - photo credit michael reiss

For Pascal his financial backing comes in part with the engine link up between Manor and Mercedes. And it is with Mercedes that Wehrlein’s success comes from.

With the German motoring giant, Wehrlein became the youngest driver to ever compete and win in the German touring car championship, the DTM. In fact, Pascal was just 18-years-old when he made his DTM debut in 2013 following on from no experience of touring car racing before hand.

For him and many before, his motorsport racing began in Go-Karts but followed with a stint in the 2011 ADAC Formel Masters (which he won) and a spell in the 2012 Formula 3 championship (which he may not have won, but finished in second place of the Euroseries as the best rookie).

He was then brought into DTM for his debut year in 2013 with the Mücke Motorsport team he raced for in Formula 3 but could only manage three-points across the 10-races he completed. He then took his first win the following year after dominating in the wet-dry conditions at the Lausitzring. The youngest DTM race winner – aged 19.

2014 also gave Pascal his first taste of Formula One, as he became the reserve driver for the Mercedes-Benz team who went on to dominate that year. He would again play a role in F1 during 2015 with his time spent as a reserve and test driver for Mercedes again but also Force India. Wehrlein impressed many during his testing outings as he closely matched Rosberg and Hulkenberg’s times over his 604 laps totaled.

Pascal Wehrlein drives a Mercedes F1 W04 (2013) at the 2015 Race of Champions - photo credit Matt Buck

But it was back in the DTM during 2015 where Wehrlein was shining the most as he became the youngest driver to ever win the title. To do so he beat the likes of Audi’s Jamie Green (2nd place, 19-point gap) and Mattias Ekström (3rd place, 22-point gap) but also ex-F1 drivers Paul di Resta (8th place, 79-point gap & closest Mercedes driver) and Timo Glock (15th place, 113-point gap).

Now though is the telling time for Wehrlein with many looking at him to impress like drivers who have recently came into the sport before him such as Max Verstappen. Primarily the F1 paddock will look to see what Pascal can do as he, and Verstappen, have been linked to replacing Rosberg at the works Mercedes team should they opt to not renew Nico’s contract at the end of 2016 over concerns of his rivalry with Lewis Hamilton, a now three-time Formula One World Champion.

The final rookie that will be making his Formula One debut in Australia in a month’s time is Jolyon Palmer. Jolyon will be making his first racing steps in Formula One with a team he spent 2015 working closely with, but at the same time an entirely different team.

Jolyon palmer GP2 2014 - photo credit Jake Archibald

For Palmer spent 2015 working as the Lotus test and reserve driver and was handed his race seat at the end of the season when Romain Grosjean departed Enstone for the new Haas F1 team. But despite making 13 Friday practice appearances for Lotus, he will now race for Renault following the team’s buy-out.

If anything, this could be more of a blessing given he will now be a key part of a works team, manufacturing a car and engine together like Hamilton and Rosberg have at Mercedes and Vettel and Raikkonen have at Ferrari. But don’t expect a title challenge anytime soon as the Renault power unit still has some way to go to catch the all conquering Mercedes and the resurgent Ferrari.

But what Palmer brings is a championship-winning driver with bags of experience in Formula One, it’s supporting series and a racing heritage. But at the same time, his last racing outing was in 2014 when he won the GP2-title.

His title-winning season was a great showing of a driver who won on four occasions and stood on the podium 12 times out of the 22 races as he secured the title with 276-points, 47-points more than second place Stoffel Vandoorne (remember him? The 2015 GP2 Championship winner, and now McLaren reserve driver destined for Formula One sooner rather than later. But back to Palmer…).

Before his GP2 title, Jolyon had spent four years battling in the championship with only three victories to his name. Yet he was already on the F1 radar as Force India brought him under their wing for the 2014 young driver post-season test.

Going further back down the Palmer timeline you will also see him scoring podiums as a young teenager racing in cars, winning in single-seaters at Brands Hatch and at the overseas round of the Formula Palmer Audi series at Spa-Francorchamps. The series incidentally founded by his father, an 82-time Formula One Grand Prix racer.

kevin magnussen F1 2014 - photo credit Jake Archibald

And although he is not a rookie anymore, Kevin Magnussen also deserves a brief mention here. For the ex-McLaren racing driver was forced to sit out the 2015 campaign after McLaren ditched the young, talented Dane for Fernando Alonso at a very late stage, only to bring him back briefly for the Australian Grand Prix when Alonso could not race due to his pre-season crash.

And as the year went on, Magnussen became a less and less important part of the McLaren outfit who eventually severed ties with the driver via an email on his birthday.

Thankfully he is going to be back on the grid this year as the returning Renault works outfit have also secured his services to race alongside Palmer. K-Mags return also owes thanks to Pastor Maldonado’s Venezuelan money running out.

Testing for the 2016 Formula One season begins on Monday 22nd February at the Circuit de Catalunya. Leave your comments below on who you think will be the rookie of the year, 2016.

The Sport Space

After a winter hiatus Formula One is nearly back and with that The Sport Space’s Formula One writer, Kyle Archer, returns to begin our look ahead to the 2016 season.

It’s that time of the year again when Formula One teams are prepping their trucks to head off around the world for pre-season testing and brush off the cobwebs of the winter. But for a few of the drivers, they are counting down the days until they can make their Formula One debuts. In this article we look at how Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto made their way into being Formula One drivers.

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