Jolyon Palmer is racing his way from ‘ordinary bloke’ to Formula 1 star as he buckles up for his debut season with the Renault Sport Formula One team in 2016.
The 25-year-old will be writing about his experiences for C4F1, and in his edition he answer questions from our audience.
Q: What do you expect from this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix?
A: Quite a lot of unpredictably because the temperatures are low and the tyres are quite fragile in China, especially on the front. The race should throw up some different strategies and hopefully some good surprises.
Q: What do you think of the decision to revert to the 2015 qualifying format?
A: I think it’s very good and a sensible decision. The new format hasn’t worked and I didn’t like the sound of an aggregate system, which would have been ever more confusing for the fans. There was nothing wrong with the format and it’s good to go back.
Q: If you could go back in time and drive any F1 car what year would you choose?
A: It’s a good question. The car that I love is the 2005 and 2006 Renault that Fernando Alonso won his world championships with. That era of F1 was very good, with the competition between Renault, Ferrari and McLaren, and Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen as the two young guys challenging Michael Schumacher. I also like the late 80s and early 90s when the cars were beasts, very heavy and physical.
Q: You also have an unusual name like me, what’s the story behind it?
A: There’s always been a tradition in my family, on my Dad’s side, where the eldest boy’s name begins with a J. This has gone down for generations. My Dad is Jonathan and his Dad is Jack and now I’m Jolyon. So I had to be a ‘J’ and as for Jolyon – yes, it’s a weird one. Maybe it was so I could fit in with Jenson (Button).
Q: How great a boost do you get from fan support, especially the loyal ones that travel to cheer you on?
A: A big boost. It’s always very nice to have support and it means a lot, especially those ones that travel and shout your name out to cheer you on. It’s kind of why we do it, we drive for ourselves but it’s a lot nicer to know that people are watching and caring and supporting, so it means a great deal.
Q: Is there a driver that you get on really well with already?
A: The one that I get on with most in F1 is Marcus Ericsson. We were teammates in GP2 and so I’ve known him for quite a while now. He’s a chilled out guy and a good friend. We’ll have a catch up pretty much most race weekends at some point.
Q: What’s the best part of a race weekend, apart from the race itself?
A: The best part of the race weekend is the race by such a long way, that’s what we’re all there for! I also enjoy the pressure of qualifying and having to put it all together on one lap, that’s a good challenge. Apart from that, I enjoy travelling to different parts of the world and seeing different cultures and fans, and it’s nice when there is a big crowd, especially when we do the drivers’ track parade on Sunday and they’re very vocal.
Q: Which country are you most looking forward to visiting this season?
A: Great Britain - it’s my home race and it will be such a special thing to be racing at my home track and somewhere I’ve known for so long. The crowd is always huge and I’m looking to that race the most for that reason. Apart from that Monaco, just because it’s Monaco. I’ve won twice there in GP2 and so to be racing there in Formula 1 is going to be quite surreal.
Q: How soon can Renault be in the points? Two 11th places, got to be in them soon!
Scott @The _Wiseman94
A: Yes, having two 11th places shows we could have already been in the points. We didn't need a lot more to go our way and we would have had some points by now. The potential is definitely already there and I look forward to us being in the points regularly very soon!
Q: Are you enjoying your company car? It looks fun to drive!
The Pob @Quemerford
A: If the RS16’s my company car I’m enjoying it a lot! The livery is definitely cool and it’s nice to drive, it’s usually pretty well balanced and consistent. I also drive a Renault Megane RS day-to-day, which is also a very nice car.
Q: What’s your favourite band?
Swell Tasha @TashaDragonfly
A: I quite like the oldies. I like Oasis and a bit of Britpop. I like Fleetwood Mac – proper music and they wrote ‘The Chain’ so you see I’m Formula 1 themed all the way through.
Q: Have you ever raced head-to-head with your Dad (former F1 driver Jonathan)?
A: No. I have driven against him but he never drives any more. Occasionally he’ll get into a car and think he’s still got it, but he doesn’t really… He can surprise me and my brother Will (also a racing driver) on occasion but we rarely get the chance to race these days.
Q: Which of your Dad’s track is your favourite. I mean Cadwell, obviously, but just for argument’s sake?
A: Brands Hatch is definitely the favourite. I’ve always done well there, it’s where I took my first-ever single-seater pole position and first win. It’s a legendary circuit with proper ballsy corners.
A: At the moment, I’d say McLaren. They have resources and are trying to rebuild and we’re trying to do the same at Renault Sport. They are on the way up and we’re a little bit behind them at the moment but we are catching them. They’ve got two world champions in the car so it’s a great challenge for me to try and go wheel-to-wheel with them.
Q: If you could eat dinner with three past or present F1 drivers who would you choose and why?
Jordan @JSPF1_10 A: James Hunt just because I’m sure he would make dinner a lot livelier. I would go for Ayrton Senna too because he’s very philosophical and would have a lot of interesting things to say. Finally, I’ll invite Mark Webber because he says it like it is and is a nice guy.
Q: What do you think about the ‘halo’ cockpit protection concept which will probably be introduced in 2017?
A: I would rather not race with it. I’ve taken the risk for all these years because I realise that safety is important and the driver’s head being exposed is the biggest risk but it’s a risk I’m happy to run with because the nature of F1 should be open cockpit. The driver’s helmet is an important part of who they are, the crowd can see you working at the wheel and if you covered the cockpit you would lose a human part of the sport as well as its history.
Q: What’s your relationship like with Kevin? (Magnussen, Renault teammate)
Team Palmer @palmer_team
A: We get on well. It’s early days, but he’s a relaxed guy and good to work with. We’re in a similar boat in that we’re young and trying to impress and prove ourselves this year, but so far it’s worked well and is a good relationship.
Q: Brie or Cambert?
A: Mozzarella. Or a mild cheddar.
Q: Who are the friends and people you turn to to avoid the F1 circus?
A: I’ve got a really close group of friends from my school days who mostly live near me in London. I like to chill with them inbetween racing and also my family are very supportive and good listeners.
Q: If you could have any superpower what would it be?
A: If I had a superpower it would be to teleport. The flights suck and the jetlag might be worse so if I could teleport to each race that would be fantastic. Unless my superpower could be to win any race, then I’d ask for that and take the flights.
Find out how Jolyon gets on in Shanghai. Watch highlights of the Chinese Grand Prix on Channel 4 on Sunday 17th April at 13:30. Return to C4F1 for the next instalment of his story of 2016.