The news that Carlos Sainz Jr. will make an in-season switch with Jolyon Palmer is the story that apparently wanted to break on its own terms.
Ever since the British Grand Prix, the paddock has been convinced that each race would be Palmer’s last, and yet the Brit has stoically clung on. Once Sainz’s 2018 move to Renault was confirmed in Singapore, the rumourmill reached fever pitch, suggesting the switch would be made for Malaysia. Palmer’s nonchalant arrival in Sepang, and further reiteration of his contractual entitlement to see out the year, swiftly killed off any further speculation.
However, just a week later in Suzuka, Palmer unilaterally announced (on Instagram no less) that the Japanese Grand Prix would be his last with the Renault Team. Jolyon clearly chose to exercise his last vestiges of control over the situation, namely his contract and his social media, and perhaps also fancied waving adieu to Formula 1 on one of the finest circuits in the world having experienced the 2017 machinery at its best. Nice one, Jo.
The instantaneous headache Palmer gave Renault’s press officers is the kind of parting gift indicative of the kind of acrimonious tightrope teams walk when they chose to expel a driver.
More broadly, taking on a new driver in-season under any circumstances severs driver-engineer bonds and tasks the incoming driver with learning an entirely new car and an entirely new batch of procedures. That is why the rather chequered history of in-season swaps is such a diverse assortment of the good, the bad and the ugly.