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On doctor's orders



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Jonathan Palmer


Williams-Cosworth FW08C


Brands Hatch


1983 European GP


The coveted Williams test driver job doesn't always get you in the hot seat. Brits Coulthard and Hill Jr might have profited greatly from being picked as the Prince of Wales to the Williams Empire but others emphatically have not.

Take Dr Jonathan Palmer who received an invitation to test a Williams after winning the 1983 F2 title. It was a just end-of-season reward for the works Ralt-Honda driver, and the reward became sweet when Frank offered him a drive at the European GP at Brands, alongside regulars Rosberg and Laffite. As the defending World Champion could only manage a poor 16th and Laffite was a non-qualifier for the second time in a row, Palmer did well to qualify in 25th, this in a season the updated Cosworth-powered FW08 was totally outrun by turbo power.

The Doctor's F1 debut at the 1983 European GP remained his only outing for Williams - and for a leading Grand Prix team for that matter. After his third-car opportunity at Brands Palmer was consigned to back-of-the-grid outfits, only having a brief moment of glory in 1987 by winning the inaugural and only Jim Clark Cup for himself and the Colin Chapman Trophy for Tyrrell by becoming best driver in the best atmospherically powered car of the field.

As a TV co-commentator to Murray Walker he had big shoes to fill after James Hunt's premature death. When the voice of motorsport transferred his services to ITV, Palmer was dumped in favour of Martin Brundle. He has lately entered into the limelight again by promoting his own single-chassis series Formula Palmer Audi.