Jolyon Palmer named as Lotus driver for 2016 F1 season
British former GP2 champion to replace Haas-bound Romain Grosjean alongside Pastor Maldonado next year
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 27/10/15 5:25pm
Britain's Jolyon Palmer has been named as Lotus' second driver for the 2016 season.
The 24-year-old, last year's GP2 champion, has served as Lotus' reserve driver this season and has now been handed a promotion to fill the vacancy left by Romain Grosjean, who is joining newcomers Haas.
Palmer will partner Pastor Maldonado, whose stay at the team was confirmed last month, at an Enstone outfit whose long-term prospects are set to be enhanced by a takeover from Renault. The French manufacturers have signed a letter of intent to buy back the team they sold in 2009, although a takeover has yet to go through.
The prospective Renault buy-out had appeared to make it more likely that a French driver would be appointed to the vacant seat, with Jean-Eric Vergne widely tipped to have been in the running. Kevin Magnussen, who is being released by McLaren, also emerged as a late contender for the Lotus drive.
Palmer, the son of former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, has stood in for Grosjean in 10 first practice sessions in 2015 and now becomes the third Briton confirmed on next year's grid after Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
"I'm obviously delighted that I'll be racing in Formula 1 next year. Lotus F1 Team gave me a tremendous opportunity this season and I thank them for assisting my development to a level where they have put their trust in me for a crucial season in their evolution," he said.
"I've enjoyed and learnt a lot from my year as third and reserve driver so I'm looking forward to putting this into practice as a race driver in 2016. I can't wait for next season to get underway!"
Team boss and owner Gerard Lopez described Palmer as a "really popular choice" and predicted he would be a continued asset to the team both on and off the track.
"We are very pleased to announce that exciting British racing talent Jolyon Palmer is promoted to a race seat with the team for next season. We've seen Jolyon's hard work and talent this season in the way he's approached his third driver role and he is a really popular choice for the team," Lopez said.
"As well as having a great future ahead of him behind the wheel, Jolyon is an intelligent and highly marketable asset to the team. He deserves this opportunity, and everyone at Enstone is excited to see what he can achieve next year."
While the future of Red Bull's two teams remains uncertain, three seats remain unfilled elsewhere on the 2016 grid - two at Manor and one at Haas - with a host of drivers thought to be in the running.