Exclusive Q&A: Jolyon Palmer on his 2016 and his role with Lotus
GP2 champion hopeful of 2016 seat; Says pace can be compared to Maldonado's; And explains how he works with Grosjean when he takes his seat for P1
Last Updated: 15/07/15 11:19am
Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer talks to Sky Sports about his 2016 chances, how he's finding his role with the team and how he works with Romain Grosjean when taking over the Frenchman's car.
How are you finding your first season in F1 as test driver with Lotus? You had a lot less experience in F1 than others who took up similar roles.
“Really good, the whole season has gone a lot better than I expected to be honest. I had 30 something laps in a Force India at the end of last year and that was the total of my F1 experience.
“So stepping in with Lotus, the most important thing for me was to get as much mileage as I can, but also I need to learn a lot as I haven’t been part of an F1 junior team, so this chance with Lotus is a chance to get a) some mileage, and b) learn as much as I can this year and try to improve myself as a driver. So far, with half the year gone, it has gone really well.”
How much of a steep learning curve has it been?
“I think my experience in GP2 has helped to be honest. The GP2 car is really quick and the tyres are similar and have similar characteristics, so there has not been so much to learn from the actual raw performance side.
“It is more the technical side and the controls – there is a lot of very complex systems on a Formula 1 car so when you are driving you’ve all the changes you need to make on the steering wheel from subtle ones to routine ones. That has been hardest bit of being a Formula 1 driver.”
How vital has it been for you to get so much more mileage compared to other third driver roles on the grid?
“It was crucial. That is what this year is all about for me, I wanted to be racing, but in the end it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to be because there is not a lot of opportunity. There are 20 cars on the grid and that is as low as it has been for as long as I can remember. Thus the important thing was to get a role driving the car like I am and now I have switched my focus to be racing next year instead.
“So I need to make myself as good as I can be as a driver, learn as much as I can and hope that I can prove to a team that I am worth a shot next year. I chose to go to Lotus, they’ve given me so far a good amount of track time and now it is up to me to prove why they should take me for next year.”
Your times have looked competitive compared to Pastor Maldonado’s during your P1 outings this year – is that a good indicator of your pace?
“Yeah, every time I get in in P1 we are on the same fuel loads, the same engine settings. Of course in a practice session sometimes there are different things that need testing, some different updates to the car, so one car might have slightly different parts on it, but roughly the run plans are exactly the same.
“So for any given P1 session whatever we are doing is comparative and so far I am happy with the job I have done. It is difficult to jump in when you are not racing all the time when you just jump in for an hour and a half session, which in the end turns out to be three runs and you’ve got to get up to speed straight away, sometimes with the car as well.
“But it is good at the moment because I am managing to get consecutive runs and I am managing to keep on top of it and I am in the simulator as well so it is all good experience for me.”
You’re always stepping in for Romain Grosjean. Aside from bits that need testing, how much of it is you getting mileage and how much is it bits Romain wants you to look at for him going into the rest of the weekend?
“The whole purpose for me is to be doing bits for the team. On a personal level I am getting experience for myself which is great, but there is nothing I am doing for myself at the cost to the team.
“So anything Romain wants me to do I do and throughout P1 everything I test is for development through the weekend. The objective for me is to make sure that by P2 the team are not disadvantaged by having me in the car and sometimes it can actually be good to have a different driver’s opinion on things on the car. My whole purpose is on a personal level to gain more experience. But on a team level to set the car up for the weekend then when Romain jumps in hopefully we are going in the right direction anyway.”
Have you any clue yet as to what you are going to be doing in 2016? There were some rumours you were going to be test driver at Lotus again next year…
“I don’t want to be a test driver again next year, my aim is still to be racing with Lotus and that is why I am here for the year to be racing. I have been told there could be an opportunity so I just have to try my best and show the team why they should take me.
“There is not much more to say, I am getting some time in the car, so at least I am getting an opportunity and as far I am aware there could be a chance so I am just trying to grab it with both hands.”
You’re reigning GP2 champion, you’re commentating on it as well this year – what have you made of the racing and the introduction of DRS?
“I was pretty sure DRS wasn’t going to be a good thing, but actually this year the racing has been really good. Sometimes the DRS seems a bit powerful and some the big moves we had to do over the last few years people are waiting for the DRS to do it on the straights.
“But so far there have 10 races, nine of which have been absolutely cracking to commentate on – the only one that hasn’t was the Sprint Race in Monaco which never is. I think the series is really, really strong again this year and the guys fighting at the front are all doing a really good job.”
Would having DRS last year have helped you stepping up to F1?
“No, it is not a big deal at all. It is just an extra gimmick for GP2 to be honest. DRS is just a push of the button so it makes no difference trying to learn it. It is just something from the racing side and I think it is a shame to be honest from a driver learning point of view because you get too reliant on using the DRS and having a huge speed advantage on the straight rather than committing hard in the corners.
"Sometimes you see a race where the DRS isn’t as powerful and some drivers look like they can’t overtake very well because they have been relying on the DRS too heavily. I was very happy with my years in GP2 not to be racing with DRS.”
The strategy group have suggested having less instruction for the drivers at the start of an F1 race and almost taking it back to the style of GP2?
“The race start is a really good idea I think. It is so automated now for the driver, you know exactly what you need to do with the clutch paddles, the throttle pedal, you are all just driving to targets and that is why I think at the start of the race it is rare to see any big differences.
“Maybe a driver can jump a place, maximum two off the line, but in GP2 you see the starts and they guy from third can often launch into the lead, it is a lot more random. And when you start all the cars in pace order and they all turn turn one in pace order then it is not going to be a great recipe for an exciting race. So I think that would be good to through something extra into the mix.”