Jolyon Palmer makes his Formula 1 race debut for Renault Sport Formula One Team, after performing Third Driver duties for the previous Enstone iteration of Lotus F1 Team in 2015.
How does it feel when you hear the title, Jolyon Palmer 2016 Renault Sport Formula One Team racing driver?
It sounds great! I can’t wait to get started! It’s been a long winter but a really useful one for getting prepared. I’ve been in Enstone a lot and training really hard. Later this month that I’ll be back in the car in Barcelona; I couldn’t be more ready.
How much of a difference is it from being a third driver in a private team to a race driver for a manufacturer team?
It’s quite a change! It’s a massively exciting project and it’s superb to be involved from the very start. It was fantastic to be announced as a race driver for 2016, then the magnitude increased once it was confirmed that Renault had bought the team and is making a massive commitment for the future. Last year provided a really good grounding for me and we’re now all at the start of a tremendous opportunity. To be a works driver for a fully-fledged manufacturer F1 team is everything I could dream of.
What have you seen change at Enstone in the recent weeks?
There was an immediate change in vibe around the factory and very rapidly all the machines were fired into action and materials started arriving. The mood in the factory is so positive and forward-looking; this is a team that’s revitalised and going places again. It’s going to be a transitional year, coming from a difficult end to 2015, so it’s my task to do the best job possible as the team grows and develops through this season. The potential is immense.
What is your approach to the season?
To be as prepared as I can be and deal with the challenges as they arise. It’s been good to have the winter break to get myself in a very good place mentally and physically. I’m focused on the job in hand. Once we’ve been able to experience the car out on track in testing we’ll be able to plan our approach better, at the moment there are so many unknowns before the car turns a wheel. It’s a new car, new engine and new owners. I just want to do my best and be happy with what I’ve done by the end of the year.
Are you ready for big increase in your workload?
I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m a Formula 1 driver, so I’m looking forward to every element. Last year was more intense than I expected and I was able to see how busy the drivers were. It’s not just on track, it’s the travel to get there as well as the time at the factory and other events. Now being part of a works team – with dealerships all over the place – it’s going to be really busy working with the Renault family and friends. The workload is part of a driver’s life. I’m sure I’ll see some interesting places and meet some lovely people over the course of the season. It’ll be a busy year and hopefully a very good year.
What have you been doing in preparation?
My winter training’s been really intense and really positive. When you’re unable to drive the car it’s good to be able to work on your fitness. Unfortunately I’ve had to contend with the British weather so I’ve done quite a bit inside in the gym! I’m a bit of a fair weather player, but I have been outside running when it stops raining!
I did do some French at A-level but I certainly will be brushing up on that! There’s certainly going to be plenty of people to speak French with and we’re all involved in this terrific project with great targets to achieve.