The 2016 Formula 1 campaign gets underway in Australia this weekend, and there will be three new faces on the grid – Rio Haryanto, Jolyon Palmer, and Pascal Wehrlein. Who will finish the season as 2016’s best rookie?
Manor will have an all-rookie line-up in Haryanto and Wehrlein, while Palmer will partner Kevin Magnussen at Renault. All three drivers have qualities that suggest they have what it take to succeed in F1, but there are some questions marks hanging over the trio. We’ve run the rule of Formula 1’s newcomers.
Racing experience: Has spent the past four years in GP2, having previously raced in GP3 and various series in the Asia-Pacific region
Where was he last year: He finished fourth in the GP2 Championship with Campos Racing
Of all the rookies, Haryanto has the most to prove. No secret has been made of the fact that it was only through substantial sponsorship that he was able to secure a drive with Manor, and this will immediately have some doubting whether Haryanto has what it takes to succeed in F1.
After struggling to make his mark in GP2 (finishing 14th, 19th, and 15th in the Championship), last season’s fourth-place finish suggests that Haryanto is making steps in the right direction and has something to build on. Unfortunately, F1 is not really where you want to be building, but rather pushing on as will be the case for his team-mate, Wehrlein.
Racing experience: Spent two years racing in FIA Formula Two from 2009-2010 before making the step up to GP2 where he raced for four seasons.
Where was he last year: Serving as Lotus’ test driver
When it comes to Palmer one thing that is not in doubt is his pace. The Briton enjoyed great success in GP2, gradually working his way up the standings before winning the 2014 Championship with DAMS. In his Championship-winning season, Palmer beat off the challenge of among others Haryanto, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, McLaren prodigy Stoffel Vandoorne and Manor reserve driver Alexander Rossi.
Palmer spent last season testing with Force India which has both its pros and cons. The 25-year-old will benefit from having spent time familiarising himself with the various circuits, but may lack some racing sharpness.
At Renault, Palmer is with an established works team, but unfortunately, one that is unlikely to have an engine capable of challenging.
Racing experience: Wehrlein has spent the past three years racing in DTM, the German touring car series.
Where was he last year: He became the youngest winner of the DTM championship
One doesn’t win the DTM Championship at the age of 21 without some serious talent. However, DTM is a very different beast to Formula 1, and it will be interesting to see whether Wehrlein is able to quickly translate those skills into F1 success.
Mercedes see Wehrlein as one for the future and that’s part of the reason he’s now at the Mercedes-powered Manor team. While Manor are expected to be more competitive thanks to their Mercedes engine, an uninspiring pre-season campaign suggests that hopes for the team shouldn’t be too high. That doesn’t mean that Wehrlein can’t impress, though.
Who do you think will win the battle of the rookies?