He participated in 87 Formula One grands prix, debuting on September 25, 1983. He scored a total of 14 championship points, with a career best finish of 4th. In 1987 he won the Jim Clark Cup for drivers without turbocharged engines. He also had a spell as McLaren test driver in 1990.
Doctor Jonathan Palmer was born in London in 1956, the son of a doctor. He was educated at Brighton College and, as a student, he raced an Austin-Healey Sprite and then a Marcos. He moved up to Formula Ford with a van Diemen in 1979 and 1980. He qualified at Guy's Hospital Medical School in 1979 but realised that he could not race and practice medicine so, in 1981, he took a sabbatical to race in Formula 3. Driving a West Surrey Racing Ralt RT3 he won the 1981 British Formula Three Championship with seven pole positions and eight wins along with ten fastest laps.
In 1983 his preformance the previous year landed him a Ralt Honda Formula 2 drive and a test drive with Williams. The Ralt-Honda was the package to have and Palmer won the European title in 1983, winning six of the 12 rounds. He also made his debut in F1 in a third Williams at the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch.
In 1984 he joined the RAM Automotive team and in 1985 and 1986 became a paid driver with Zakspeed. He also raced sports cars, driving for Richard Lloyd in a Porsche, he won at Brands Hatch in 1984 with Jan Lammers and finished second at Le Mans in 1985. That year he suffered a serious accident when qualifying the Porsche at Spa and broke his right foot. In 1987 he won the Norisring race with Baldi in on of Walter Brun's Porsche.
In 1987 he was hired on a three-year contract by Tyrrell and in 1988 won the Jim Clark Trophy as the best-placed driver of a non-turbocharged car competing in the World Championship.
By the end of 1989, however, Palmer had been eclipsed by Jean Alesi and in 1990 he signed to become McLaren test driver for the next three years. In 1990 he also returned to competition in sports cars with a Porsche 962.
After retiring from driving Palmer was drafted in as a commentator by the BBC in mid-1993 to replace James Hunt who had died of a heart attack. He did a god job but when coverage moved to ITV in 1997 he was replaced by Martin Brundle.
Palmer is the name behind the Formula Palmer Audi open wheel racing series in the UK, and has managed the career of its inaugural champion Justin Wilson for some time. He has also developed a corporate entertainment company and acquired a 50-year lease on a 400-acre portion of an old airfield in Bedford where he has built a four-circuit facility.
In recent years MotorSport Vision, a company headed by Palmer, have aquired a number of race tracks in the UK. These include Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Cadwell Park and Oulton Park.