Renault has confirmed it will release Jolyon Palmer from his contract with the team following Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix to make way for Carlos Sainz.
Palmer’s future has been under a cloud for most of the season following an underwhelming sophomore season with the French squad, and speculation intensified at the height of the complicated power unit dealings between McLaren, Toro Rosso and Renault, with many believing the Briton’s contract could become collateral damage.
Carlos Sainz was confirmed as Palmer’s replacement from 2018 at the Singapore Grand Prix as one component of those negotiations, with rumours suggesting Renault wanted to make the switch immediately only to be unable to find a way to terminate 26-year-old’s contract before the end of the season.
Indeed Pierre Gasly’s substitution for Daniil Kvyat from the Malaysian Grand Prix is understood to be a result of Toro Rosso prematurely signing the young Frenchman assuming Sainz would be departing the team that weekend, only to discover Palmer’s Renault seat would not be made vacant as soon as expected.
The announcement that a mutual agreement had been found between Palmer and Renault came unexpectedly on Saturday night in Japan, after Jolyon qualified 14th for the race.
“It’s been an extremely challenging season and I’ve been through a lot in the last three years, but it’s been a tremendous journey overall with the team,” Palmer said in a statement.
“I can look back proudly at the performance in the second half of last season, my first point in Malaysia [in 2016] and of course reaching a career high of sixth place in Singapore this year.
“I wish the team all the best for the future. My immediate focus is now on achieving the best possible result in the Japanese GP, and then I can assess my options for the future.”
Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul thanked Palmer for his “commitment to the team and his professionalism” in biding the driver farewell.
“Since Renault’s return to Formula One, Jolyon has been highly dedicated in an evolving environment,” he said. “He has shown great personal qualities and we wish him all the best in his future career.”
Palmer debuted for Renault alongside Kevin Magnussen but the team struggled to make an impact in its first season returning to Formula One as a constructor after buying the financially crippled Lotus F1 Team at the end of the previous season.
The Briton was beaten by Magnussen over the course of the season and took until the Malaysian Grand Prix in October to score his debut point in Formula One with a 10th-place finish.
Though he was retained by the team for 2016, he was understood to be low on Renault’s list of preferred drivers, being signed only when Magnussen defected to Haas after growing impatient with the protracted negotiating process.
Nico Hülkenberg became Palmer’s teammate this season and has thoroughly outperformed him owing both to Jolyon’s poor form and a litany of reliability issues that hampered his ability to adjust to the new generation of cars.
Palmer, winner of the 2014 GP2 title, has few options to remain in Formula One. The last available competitive seat is Felipe Massa’s drive at Williams, but the field of contenders comprises Massa, Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta, making a switch to the Grove constructor unlikely.