The 'Paul Di Resta Strategy' Theory
Why Renault should buy into replacing Jolyon Palmer with Robert Kubica
Now irrespective of the lackluster Formula 1 career that Palmer has had so far, any logical manager would understand that you need to give people patience and time to develop, but that should really only apply with signs of positivity, in which Jolyon has had no glimmer of strong results. Let’s use a trusty old friend in google and do a search for ‘Jolyon Palmer’. If you’re not already depressed scrolling down to the bottom of page one, I’d be baffled. Almost every piece found is in relation to a past negative, or his current dilemma of the precarious tight rope he walks in his current race seat. The closest thing to a positive is Jolyon labeling himself as the “master of 11th place”
– or as Ayrton Senna would call, the tenth loser.
We’re all human and it’s rude to tell the team to kick someone out from their job for constantly being the tenth loser. You’re removing a person from their job, passion, as well as something they’ve done their whole life. But if I showed up to my job and was constantly the 11th person to finish work, if I was the eleventh guy to get a shot at the most beautiful woman at a club – or the eleventh option on an NBA team, I’d be laughing my way into the unemployment market faster than Valtteri Bottas’ recent ‘legal’ jump start at the Austrian Grand Prix.
That’s The Art of War by Sun Tzu, that’s the business of Formula One. That’s why Romain Grosjean was kicked out of Enstone at the end of 2009 and why he found his way back with future signs of positivity. There was minimal logical reason to keep him onboard at the time, but he worked his way back into the sport respectfully. Maldonado remained in the sport mostly due to monetary factors, but that sole race win was also a heavy influence as on the right day, he was one of the quickest drivers on the grid as a GP2 Champion himself.
But do I dare bring up Nelson Piquet Jr’s demise from Formula One? I guess the story is set… If Palmer is still in his seat after the summer break and he ‘accidently’ crashes at the Singapore Grand Prix, we’ll probably find Nico Hülkenberg somehow leading the race during the safety car period, before he is unfortunately taken out by Sebastian Vettel who claims his fellow German brake tested him going into the Singapore Sling. Palmer is then kicked out at the end of the year and Renault face the same discipline and wrath Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds had to endure. So why take that unnecessary situation onboard when there’s a low risk initiative of bringing in Robert Kubica?
I don’t want this column to be more toxic than the Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel volatile social media revulsion, but what I appreciate about Jolyon most is that he’s maintained reasonable professionalism for the abundance of criticism he’s received. However, do you really need to read between the lines and gaze into the pressure you can visibly see? Losing his cool talking to Jennie Gow on BBC Radio 5 live’s F1 preview show was a sign he could feel it, but most importantly, Palmer didn’t let himself go physically the way Davide Valsecchi has – whose recent passion in the Formula 2 commentary booth (and F1 Sky Italia) is still as fat as Juan Pablo Montoya at the end of 40 days of lent and food sacrifice.
Think about it, Palmer took four years to win the GP2 Championship and whenever it takes someone more than their rookie season to do so, it’s high likely (but still possible) that they won’t be achieving much success at the top level in Formula 1. Congratulations, you’re a 23 year old senior out of college who outplayed a 19 year old one and done freshman, but guess who’s getting drafted higher in the NBA draft?
Even Stoffel Vandoorne isn’t showing the most promising signs in a difficult car this season. He’s another example of someone who should’ve been a rookie champion if not for his abysmal first few rounds to his GP2 career after his win in Bahrain. The difference here is that he HAS shown glimpses of promise, positivity and potential. I’m all for any human on this planet having a successful career and life, it’s for the good of the world. But we’re starting to bottleneck at the top and as much as I’d love for Jolyon to succeed, Palmer’s ‘almost scoring points’ cliffhanger story each race, or the fact that he’s 26 years old leaves me desperate to tell Renault, what the fuck are you doing?
I can’t see much of a downside in comparison to the Palmer situation – if it works, you bring in one of the hottest talents from 7 years ago, becoming the New York Knicks of Formula 1 in a good way. If it doesn’t, you don’t face the #Wengerout bullshit and disloyalty, the public scrutiny the Los Angeles Lakers face for every decision they make in a high pressure market, because you took a well calculated risk and had all rights to do so. Palmer’s contract is off the books, you give Kubica another season in 2018 to figure things out and if it still doesn’t work, you bring in your test driver in Sergey Sirotkin to the seat who has been the hot 17 year old talent for six straight years already.
I would rather have a one handed Robert Kubica than Jolyon Palmer 100% on the right day. The risk vs reward situation is simple, if Kubica fails to perform, he has the ‘rust’ excuse of not being in Formula 1 since 2010, the same excuse overweight baseball players have used for years during spring training. If it does work out, it’s a future feature film directed by Ron Howard. You’ll get flair, speed, the occasional mistake here and there, but most importantly you’re getting the extra tenth or two you need out of Robert Kubica. Whereas the other side from Palmer? I cannot be bothered bearing through another race of the good old Paul Di Resta strategy, going on a one stop strategy in a four stop race, letting everyone constantly pass you by not battling with them and finishing 11th or 12th yet again.
Let’s now give “Paul Di Resta Strategy” a google search and here is my theory on it – the first result I find is a 2011 article from ESPN with Di Resta “thanking his team for an aggressive strategy”,
quite the contrary to Di Resta’s career as aggressive strategies were far from his forte, but it proved that by trying something different against his then teammates of Adrian Sutil and Nico Hülkenberg, Di Resta gathered a decent points finish. Scroll down the page and you’ll see what I mean by the Paul Di Resta Strategy. It’s a lose-lose situation which Jolyon Palmer has found himself in, if it doesn’t work, you’re slow and uncompetitive. When it works, you’ve really only made places on strategy and not on pure pace, less impressive to other prospective teams. It’s an illusion because even pitting a pre-2011 Hamilton (who was abrasive on his tyres) against the Paul Di Resta strategy, his pace would far out supersede the need to go on conservative strategies regardless.
Rubens Barrichello also stated clearly in 2012, Williams should have had far more points than they had with Maldonado and Bruno Senna, the Brazilian stating that with his experience and speed they wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in now with their inexperienced drivers. You’re already scoring very valuable 11th places with Palmer, so what’s there to lose with putting Robert Kubica in the car (who technically has equal to more experience than Jolyon, although in older cars)? Robert also doesn’t have to worry about the British media constantly covering his every move and that will mean slightly less pressure and exposure to any movement he makes on and off the track.
So hey! Jolyon, like Nike says, just fucking do it. Forget the 11th place finishes, try something different this weekend at Silverstone, as well as Hungary, try and save your seat. Kubica, a realistic man stating he has an 80-90% chance of making an F1 comeback therefore means you have nothing else to lose. On the other hand, stay the same over these next two races, you’ll probably end up losing the seat. So trying something different, and whatever is ‘different’, is the job interview for your next F1 seat.
So hey! Renault, tell Palmer it’s time to jolly off this summer – and all Cyril Abiteboul simply needs to do is ensure he doesn’t sign four drivers to two race seats and find himself in a pickle, break off Palmer’s contract and send him to Le Mans or DTM (partnering up with his great strategic inspiration of Paul Di Resta) and bring in Robert Kubica. You announce the comeback three days before Friday practice ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix as everyone will just be returning from the piña colada and palm tree beaches, or maybe that’s just Lewis Hamilton.
Lewis will return to the paddock for his first interview, calmly and soothingly stating “It’s good to see Robert back in the paddock inspiring us all to keep fighting”, before being labelled rude and a cry baby by Formula 1’s entire social media and reddit page for his vicious, volatile and unprofessional comments. Win-win for Formula 1 and their new positive social media presence, win-win for Renault and Kubica.
Hülkenberg recently stated in the May 2017 edition of F1 Racing magazine, that he believes Renault will be at the front by 2018. The same reason Lewis Hamilton left McLaren in 2012, the same reason Hülkenberg left for Renault last year. Now it probably won’t be at the same whiplash effect of Mercedes, who had the backing and structure of Ross Brawn who set the team up for success, much like he did with Honda/Brawn GP for 2009 and the Schumacher/Ferrari era. In this instance however, if everything goes to plan, you set up a solid driver lineup that will succeed in the status quo, but not have to deal with the backlash McLaren receives for their lackluster performances either, as you were never competing for championships in the first place. It doesn’t help having a driver with as big a fan presence as Alonso, for all the talent you get, you have to live with the anger and publicity of being dug deep in a tough situation.
Hülkenberg has recently said he’s fully focused on the Renault program and with Kubica’s previous experience in F1, despite it being 7 years ago, his biggest challenge will be adapting to the physical fitness required to pilot this machinery.
Think about Herbert’s accident, Lauda, now add Kubica to that list. If everything plays out well, this comeback story will be up right up there depending on both results and Renault’s competitiveness – not mention how he fairs against Hülkenberg. It’s a common theme in life and sports, ‘what could have been?’ So rather than ask those questions, let’s bring Robert back when he’s ready and test this story out once and for all.
Let’s be realistic though, we all want this story to happen but there is minimal chance it will succeed. Formula 1 drivers are wired differently, 300km/h close to barriers without batting an eye lid, they know the consequences of motor racing, but they still race regardless. Give Robert a shot and if Renault don’t, Ferrari should instead give Roberto a shot once Kimi Raikkonen “bwoah’s” his way into retirement at the end of the year.
||Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.