Renault driver Jolyon Palmer scored a hard-earned and well-deserved first Formula One World Championship point in the Malaysian Grand Prix less than a week ago and now, buoyed by this, he is heading to Suzuka for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix eager for more.
How does it feel to get your first point on the board?
I’m very happy and just a little bit relieved too. For the last 15 laps of the race I had Carlos Sainz just a couple of second behind and in my mirrors, and on fresher tyres, so I had to keep focused and consistent so to cross the line and get that point was very satisfying.
You were very frustrated after qualifying so how did you turn everything around?
I was pretty hard on myself after qualifying and we knew we had a lot of work to do. All day Friday and on Saturday morning we’d looked good but in qualifying everything went away from us. We looked very closely at the data and on Sunday morning we could pinpoint the causes of my qualifying difficulties so with that understanding I could focus on the race and my confidence was much higher again. In the race we took a gamble on the strategy and went really long on the hard compound in the first stint. We had an A plan and a B plan, but in the end we could keep the hards alive so long that we were able to create a new plan and make one stop for the softs, which ran to the end of the race. The guys on the pit wall were really fluid and we did a great job as a team.
What’s your mindset as you head to Suzuka?
Positive. I’ve never raced there before and I’ve only driven one lap there, which was an install in the wet in 2015 so I’m looking forward to learning it! The track looks very exciting and it’s very technical, quite a specialist type of track with a lot of change of direction; especially in the first sector. It’s old-school and everyone seems to like it.
How do you prepare for a track you haven’t driven before?
The track walk on Thursday will be extra important. You can pick up references and get a good eyeline. Because it’s the second of a back-to-back there’s no time to return to Enstone and go in the simulator so I’ll be watching a lot of on board footage before heading out for four hours of practice across Friday and Saturday. I think FP1 will be a lot about learning the track and getting up to speed.
What do you think of Japan as a country?
They embrace Formula 1 like no other country and Suzuka is always wired when F1 is in town. From visiting last year as a third driver I could see the passion of the fans. There’s crazy merchandise and crazy hats there and everyone really shows their support. That’s what we love to see! The history of Formula 1 and Japan is well-known. As for other aspects, I’m quite partial to sushi and teriyaki so I’ll be eating well when I’m there.
More points on order?
Most definitely. There’s nothing to say we can’t carry on from where we left off in Sepang and I’ve definitely got a thirst for more points. I’ve never tried sake so let’s hope for a good race so I can celebrate with some on Sunday night with more points on the board!