- November 07, 1956
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Jonathan Palmer is a former racing driver from the United Kingdom, successful businessman and the father of two successful young racing drivers - Jolyon Palmer and Will Palmer.
Jonathan Palmer recorded 83 starts in the F1 World Championship between 1983 and 1989. His greatest success in a career was the Formula 2 European Championship title in 1983.
When the doctor becomes a racing driver
Jonathan Charles Palmer was born in November 1956 in Lewisham, an area in southeast London. While he was studying a medicine, Palmer raced in various club events driving an Austin-Healey and Marcos but never was thinking about becoming a professional racing driver. He was preparing to work as a doctor in Brighton but everything was changed in 1978.
That year he started to race in Formula Ford championship and spent three seasons in the series before moving to the British Formula 3 Championship in 1981. He left his main job in medicine and began a career of the professional racing driver. He won the title in his first attempt and earned Formula 1 test with Williams.
European Formula 2 champion in 1983
European Formula 2 championship was the next stop in Jonathan’s career. His first year with Ralt Racing Ltd wasn't a glorious one as Palmer had only one podium finish, at Donington Park. However, he picked some experience and in the second attempt managed to win the title.
Palmer was crowned as the Formula 2 champion in 1983. The start of the season went bad as he retired at Silverstone, but it was followed by a stream of almost perfect results, particularly in the second half of the year when he won five races in a row.
Career highlight - Formula 1 debut with Williams
Jonathan’s performances were so impressive during 1983 that Williams gave him to drive the third car in the European Grand Prix in which British driver finished 13th. He was ready for the most prominent racing series but his budget was very tight and he could afford a driving seat only with some minor teams.
In 1984, Palmer drove his first full-time F1 season with Skoal Bandit Team. That was a season to forget as he failed to pick a single point. Palmer retired from the half of the races that year while his best result was the 8th place in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Move to Zakspeed in 1985
In 1985, Palmer moved to ambitious but never really competitive Zakspeed Racing team. That had to be a step forward but during two seasons British driver struggled to make any impact. He raced for the German team in 23 Grand Prix events but retired from 14 and finished both seasons empty-handed, barely finishing in top 10.
In parallel to his formula racing commitments, Palmer also raced in 24 Hours of Le Mans. He made a debut in 1983 and finished 8th, while two years later he was a runner-up. Driving a Richard Llyod Racing’s Porsche alongside James Weaver and Richard Lloyd, they finished 2nd, three laps behind Joest Racing’s Porsche. He missed a big part of 1985 season before that le Mans race after having a serious crash at Spa in which he broke a right foot.
Later in the career Palmer had other three starts at Circuit de la Sarthe but each attempt ended with a retirement. Another notable result in the sports cars racing was a victory in 1000 km of Brands Hatch in 1984 when he was teamed up with Jan Lammers in Porsche 956.
Three years with Tyrrell
Racing in Formula 1 always was Palmer’s priority. He was ambitious but it was obvious that he’ll never be able to achieve something special. In 1987 he signed a three-year contract with Tyrrell and the first season with a new team was his best. Jonathan picked points in Monaco, Germany, and Australia and with a seven points on his account, took 11th place in the Drivers’ championship.
In 1988, Palmer again scored thrice but dropped to the 14th place overall. Nevertheless, he won the Jim Clark Trophy as the best-placed driver of a non-turbocharged car competing in the Formula 1 championship.
His last campaign with Tyrrell was the worst. British driver collected just two points, finishing 6th at Imola and Estoril, before taking 25th position in the final standings.
End of the racing career
Palmer left Formula 1 but stayed active in the world of motorsport as a test driver after he has signed a three-year contract with McLaren in 1990. He also finished 7th in the 1991 British Touring Car Championship, driving a Prodrive’s BMW. Two years later, after the death of James Hunt, Palmer partnered Murray Walker, a popular TV commentator of Formula 1 races at BBC, but Jonathan worked as a pundit only two seasons.
Businessman and drivers manager
Palmer then began to develop a corporate entertainment company. His company has bought control of Brands Hatch and some other racing circuits in the UK. He also launched his own racing series, known as Formula Palmer Audi and is a promoter of many other minor series, like Formula 2 and BRDC Formula 4 championship.