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The Jolyon Palmer Column

Jolyon Palmer has been writing a regular column for C4F1 throughout 2016

Jolyon Palmer is preparing to go 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, starting with a virtual handshake with our new audience ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

 

It feels great to be a Formula 1 driver, full stop. But to be a British driver is even more special.  Lining up alongside Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in Australia will be pretty special.  They’re both champions and if you look through the history of F1 there are 10 great British world champions.

 

The name that stands out as soon as you say British is James Hunt. He was just such a legend.  He died before I really could know anything of him personally but watching though his races, they were proper old school. He was a proper British gentleman with it and I loved his 'couldn't give a damn' attitude as well.

 

It's a real target for me to try and emulate those British champions and I know I've got the best fans supporting me. I've always loved Formula 1 even when I was a baby. My Dad Jonathan is involved in motorsport and drove in F1 himself in the 1980s. He never pushed me into it but my interest came naturally though him.

 

When I was at school I thought it would be a cool idea to be an F1 driver but I never really thought about what I was going to do with my life.  I didn't do any karting and was playing football reasonably seriously when I was under-13, then something clicked in my mind and I thought "forget this, I need to go racing".

 

I went karting properly for the first time and from then on all the other sports were on the back seat and I was targeting motorsport. I came up through a slightly alternative junior career, doing everything that is now defunct from the likes of T Cars to Formula Two.

 

My biggest breakthrough was winning the GP2 title in 2014 with DAMS - that put me on the map really.  I was reserving last year for Lotus F1 Team and it was great to understand how Formula 1 operates, but the switch to racing driver is massively different. 

 

My life is just manic. When you're a racing driver growing up you have all your focus on the driving, and in GP2 there were 11 race weekends and a couple of tests. The workload with the team in F1 is high, there are 21 race weekends this season, a lot of travel time and commitments in between. A lot of people want a piece of you!  

 

I'm enjoying it all. I last raced in GP2 in Abu Dhabi in November 2014, and my whole focus is on Melbourne and racing again. The feeling of your heart pumping on the grid, starting at the lights, and the lights going out. Then it's wheel-to-wheel and planning through the race.

 

The real excitement for me is I'm taking on some great drivers for the first time.

 

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and all the former champions. The best drivers in the world are in Formula 1, so it's a great challenge.

 

It's been good to get back in the car over four days of testing in Barcelona, dialling in and getting used to the new procedures. There are no big surprises with the car. It’s off the back of the baseline of last year's Lotus. The engine is obviously quite different but in terms of performance it didn't feel too different to drive after the winter off.

 

We need more performance in pretty much every department but we've got a good platform to build on. My inkling says we're going to be somewhere in the midfield, but it’s so close that that could be anywhere from 12th to 18th to 20th! It's going to be very tight and tenths of a second will make a big difference.

 

It's really exciting to be part of the Renault Sport Formula One Team comeback in my rookie year. Everyone understands that it's not going to be an easy year, if we can be in the midfield then that's a very solid start and we are going to have some resources to move forward. Renault Sport have come back with big ambition and they are motivated.

 

I see myself as an ordinary bloke away from the track. I live in London and enjoy spending time with my mates. I cook very poorly for myself, I enjoy a quiet night in. I actually like nothing more, when I get the chance, to chill out and stick on a bit of TV. I watch Fresh Meat and The Inbetweeners on C4. Easy viewing, nothing too serious.

 

I support Ipswich Town, the Tractor Boys! I don't have any big connection with Ipswich but they won the play-offs from Division One in 2000 and got promoted.   I was about eight and thought "I reckon this team are going to be good". To be fair they ended up finishing fifth the next season and then every other year since then has not been so good…

 

My closest friends are from school in Cranleigh and it's all just banter between us. As soon as I try and get too big for my boots, they bring me straight back down to earth - it's the same with my Mum.

 

Will my life change as a Formula 1 driver? Will I get too cocky? I think I'm pretty safe on that front. 

 

Find out how Jolyon gets at Albert Park with extended highlights of the Australian Grand Prix on Channel 4 at 1330 on Sunday 20 March.and return to C4F1 for the next instalment in the story of his 2016 season.

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