Southwater’s Jolyon Palmer produced a fantastic display on his Formula One grand prix debut and narrowly missed out on world championship points in Australia.
The 25-year-old picked up plenty of plaudits for his impressive and long-awaited bow on Sunday in Melbourne as he motored to an 11th-place finish.
That was just one position off the points as the debutant finished in 1-49-38.964, ahead of Renault Sport team-mate Kevin Magnussen in 12th and 14th-placed former world champion Jenson Button.
The first race of the new season which was won by Nico Rosberg was overshadowed by a spectacular crash involving Fernando Alonso.
From which, miraculously, the Spaniard emerged unscathed after his McLaren rolled through the air twice following a 200mph collision with Esteban Gutierrez’s car, which led to the race being stopped.
But this had little effect on Palmer, who spent last year as reserve and third team driver for Lotus F1 after winning GP2 the previous year.
He said: “It’s a good start, we were so close to scoring points, and we can move forward from here. The race itself was busy but good fun; I absolutely loved being wheel to wheel again after a year out of racing. It was great to be back in the fray and it all went pretty smoothly for me. Happy days.
“It would have been nice to get that point. I saw a yellow flag towards the end and wondered if anyone had gone off, but it wasn’t to be.
“It was a good race though. We made a good start and it was fairly smooth thereafter. I couldn’t hold the Toro Rosso’s back unfortunately and we just didn’t quite have the pace to live with the cars ahead of us.
“It’s a great start for us and a solid base for the team to build on in the future.”
Palmer, having qualified in 14th place for Sunday’s race, was promoted one place up the grid order prior to the race when the Williams of Valtteri Bottas was penalised for a gearbox change.
But a stellar getaway from Palmer storm by Button, before he went wheel-to-wheel with the other McLaren of Fernando Alonso through the first few corners.
Having started the race on the Pirelli super-soft tyres the former GP2 champion was soon in the pit lane in search of fresh rubber, before his fight to make the points quickly resumed.
A red flag period for the Alonso crash allowed all drivers/teams to change set-up, parts and tyres, which meant the second segment of the contest was almost like a new race, with Palmer moving to the more durable medium tyre compound.
He was undeterred by the interruption, and after the safety car came in and the race resumed 12th became 11th when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen retired.
The former Cranleigh School pupil enjoyed a stunning battle with the two Toro Rosso cars of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Max Verstappen, holding off the faster cars on much fresher tyres for several laps.
But eventually he could fend them off no more and Palmer spent the rest of the race maintaining his position, hoping misfortune ahead could earn him a well-deserved point on his debut.
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