After a superb maiden race in Australia, things haven’t gone precisely to plan for Jolyon Palmer in 2016, culminating in a crash in Monaco that prompted a wave of speculation that he was set to be replaced at Renault. If the pressure is on, though, Palmer isn’t fazed. Indeed after a ‘complete reset’ following the Monte Carlo malaise, the British rookie believes he’s on the up once more – perfect timing approaching his first ever home Grand Prix, as he explained exclusively to Formula1.com…
I feel more and more comfortable in the car, got the car more to my liking, more consistent.
Q: How about Monaco? You have form there, being a two-time winner in the Principality in GP2, but your F1 debut didn’t exactly go to plan…
JP: Monaco was very tough; I had an engine deficit of a couple of tenths [Kevin Magnussen was given an upgraded Renault power unit], and I was not only over-driving a difficult car to try and make Q2, but also compared to my team mate, to try and find a few tenths that weren’t there. I was making too many mistakes. Obviously having a crash and finishing in the wall was the end to a pretty bad weekend, so then I needed to have a complete reset, and focus on the remaining races. Rather than look back, I feel like I’m in a more positive situation now.
Q: Has there been anything specific you have changed, or that you could point to as a problem?
JP: After Melbourne, I think we got set back to reality. We are behind at the moment, and as a driver when you’re in a car that’s quite difficult and fundamentally not very quick, you always push to try and find something that’s not really there. So especially early on I was making a few more mistakes, and that makes it hard.
For me personally I was also having various problems in practice sessions, which was really hurting me by the time I got to qualifying basically. So it’s about putting the whole weekend together, and that’s what I feel I’ve done better lately. There is nothing specific. It’s trying to find a bit more pace in the car, try to always get the last few hundredths, and then put it together on Sundays.
But after getting my head around that, especially after Monaco where I had a reset, the last few races have been more focused on what is actually possible with the car, rather than what isn’t. I’d say since Canada I’ve really been on the up. I feel more and more comfortable in the car, got the car more to my liking, more consistent. Austria to be 12th again I think is clear progress. I feel I’m in a good place at the moment.
Q: How about the rumours that you might lose your seat, for example to Esteban Ocon, who drives in FP1 tomorrow? Five races into your career – how does a driver handle something like that?
JP: I take it with a pinch of salt to be honest. I’m in for the year, I have a great opportunity with Renault, and they can see the job I am doing now. I have a team mate who is highly rated, who has been on the podium, and who matched up well with Jenson Button, so he is a good reference. The fact I’m pretty much matching him is positive, I think. Ultimately I am getting in the car and needing to do the job, so I need to blank the rumours out. Especially the last few races have been much more positive I think, and the better the job you do the quieter the rumours get. It’s just about focusing on what I can do myself rather than anything else.