Ahead of his second season in F1, Jolyon Palmer reveals to Crash.net how he needs to prove himself in 2017, why the new Renault is such a big step forward and why he no longer has to get 'hangry' anymore...

Crash.net
When did you get to Australia?

Jolyon Palmer
Monday morning.

Crash.net
Just in time for the rain...

JP:
Exactly! Just in time for the rain literally, I was like I'll come here nice and early, get acclimatised, get some sun!

Crash.net
Was it a busy winter break?

JP:
I trained a lot and went to Thailand for the new year which was good. But basically it was training, just in the UK apart from that, and in the simulator in the factory a bit.

Crash.net
You're not a rookie anymore, what are you aiming to achieve in the first half of the season, and what's the goal for the end of the season?

JP:
The same thing really the first half and the whole season I want a good performance from myself, which I don't know what positions or anything that's going to be, but just to be getting the most out of the car, to be comparing well with Nico, and just deliver performances that I'm happy with and the team's happy with.

Crash.net
The fact that you had a stronger half of last season give you momentum for this season, or do you see 2017 as a clean slate?

JP:
I think it gives me momentum in terms of I just feel like I learn a lot and I'm in a much better position now, but of course everything's going to be different this year, it feels a long time ago racing in Abu Dhabi now and the cars are very different. It's a lot of change but it's at least better to have a good second half of the season than to not have a good second half of the season.

Crash.net
Are you taking any different approaches to a race weekend now that you have a more experienced team-mate to measure yourself against?

JP:
No, I'm always one for learning and improving so for sure I can learn some things from Nico, but to be honest we're pushing flat out and trying to do the best we can, and it's the same story really; the car is different, the team mate is different but I still have to work the best I can with the engineers and deliver on track.

Crash.net
Do you let pressure dictate your performance or are you happier to take each race as it comes?

JP:
Take each race as it comes I think, and just try and blank out the pressure a little bit, because there is pressure obviously, whatever you do there's pressure and I think especially for qualifying and the race start where there's a lot resting on a short period of time where you've got to make a lot of decisions. At the end of the day you're sat in a car and you've just got to do a good job, and if you do your best that's all you can do really.

Crash.net
Do you feel like there's more pressure this year?

JP:
To be honest no, last year there was quite a lot of pressure! It was my rookie season and you know the circumstances around Renault coming in, and it was obviously a transition year last year, I had to prove myself, I've still got to prove myself this year but I feel like I'm back here and I feel more confident. There's still pressure but maybe a little bit less than last year.

Crash.net
Not including the new aerodynamic regulations, what is the most notable difference in this year's Renault to last year's?

JP:
I would say we're probably better on kerb riding and bumps which was a big weakness last year. Barcelona isn't the easiest track to tell, when we go to Monaco or Singapore we'll know for sure, but I think that was a real weakness for us last year, that was where a big effort was done to fi that and I think we've done it.

Crash.net
What other areas do you think could be improved?

JP:
Everywhere. First of all, reliability because Barcelona we weren't reliable enough on the engine side, we've got upgrades for here so I think that should be OK I hope, then there's always improvements I mean aero is the biggest area where constantly we can add aero to the car and improve performance, we can improve that here. That will keep coming certainly the first part of the season and hopefully the whole season.

Crash.net
You mentioned engine reliability, what's the general vibe like within the team? It can be easy for morale to drop once things start going wrong again.

JP:
I think that the general atmosphere is positive really, especially from where we were last year, this feels like a proper Renault effort really, whereas last year it was Renault but we knew that the car wasn't going to be great and it was designed with a lot of compromises, so this year generally we're all quite positive and it looks like we'll be somewhere in the midfield this weekend and at the start of the year, but I think there's generally optimism that through the year we can develop well.

Crash.net
Have any feeling where you might be on the grid?

JP:
No not really, maybe somewhere between fifth and eighth in the teams, where's that? Somewhere between ninth and 16th basically.

Crash.net
So there's potential to score a couple of points if reliability doesn't become an issue?

JP:
I hope so yeah, I mean that's the unknown really is within those teams around us, so if we do a better job than them this weekend the strategy is obviously going to be quite open as well. There's new start procedures now and there's a lot of unknowns so if we do a good job then I think we can do a good job straight away.

Crash.net
Are you able to give us a bit more insight on the start procedure? It looks like it's going to be quite complicated.
You can't practice enough because for all the practice that you have ultimately it comes down to what happens when the lights go out and it's all gut feel and instinct, so the more you practice the slightly better you are, but you've still got to get it right at the time. Before it was quite automated the starts were all quite even, then last year they were less automated but still you had a bit of a window to do to get it right, and now the window has really been slashed, so you've really got to get it pin point with the clutch and the throttle. It's going to be a lot harder.

Crash.net
What can go wrong?

JP:
You can get anti-stall basically, then just wheel spin. So you've got two things that can go wrong, you get either of them and you're going nowhere. It's clutch and throttle what you're playing with, and if you let the clutch go too quickly or too slowly, or too much throttle or too little throttle, it's all fine margins as well this year. Last year we had a wider range that we could be in, then this year it's just a lot narrower really where we need to be, so there's a bigger chance for it to go wrong.

Crash.net
Do you think it's a good change?

JP:
Yeah! Why not? It's a bit more of a random element but still the one that's more skilful at the start will take the benefit, so it's not like a lottery. Also, I think overtaking isn't going to be so easy so probably to mix the order from the start it might not be a bad thing.

Crash.net
You might be able to hold cars behind if you get a great start.

JP:
Exactly! Yeah just come through, take the lead, elbows out... I think overtaking will be harder so it might be a bad thing to be honest if you get cars out of place but get a really good start, I think last year there was a Manor sometimes in the top 10 or 12, it was hard to pass them, but this year there might be a good scrap behind.

Crash.net
You've got shorter braking zones now as well so that would add to the difficulty of passing people, is that a fair assessment?

JP:
I think shorter braking zones and wider cars with more downforce is all making it harder, but at the same time I think the slipstream effect will be more because there's more drag. So there's something back in favour, but I think it will be harder.

Crash.net
Do you feel like there was a significant gain from the power unit? Can you feel any difference?

JP:
It's difficult to feel to be honest because we've got more drag and we're going slower on the straights, so even though the engine has actually improved - and I know it is from the numbers - if you look at just the speeds we're going on the straights it's less than last year because the cars are so different, so if we trust the numbers what will count is if we're closer than we were last year compared to Ferrari and Mercedes.

Crash.net
It's a popular topic at the moment, fitness, what sort of preparations did you do and do you have a favourite exercise?

JP:
Well what I did was just a lot of upper body strength training really, a bit of neck exercises as well, generally tried to put a lot of muscle on. I put on about four kilos over the winter which was just eating more and lifting some weights.

Crash.net
Surely that's a good thing?

JP:
It's a good thing! I don't really have a favourite exercise, it's all just work, I don't particularly enjoy any of it, but it's more fun at least to do something different. Previously for years I've been going out running the whole time and dieting, not lifting any weights because I've been trying to keep weight off, so now it's quite nice to do something different.

Crash.net
Do you think this helps with your race preparation? Because if you're in a better state of mind from a better lifestyle, you don't have to worry about your weight as much.

JP:
It probably is good to be honest, I haven't even thought about it but last year even before a race I was having to watch what I ate and make sure I wasn't too heavy when I jumped on the scales to start the race. This year there's a bit more freedom and I need to eat more food just to have the energy, so more joie de vivre! You've got more energy about your life.

Crash.net
You're familiar with the term 'hangry'?

JP:
Oh yeah exactly! I think I'm quite a hangry person normally so this is good!

Crash.net
Pre-season you were ahead of the McLarens, do you think it's possible to keep them behind given their troubles?

JP:
I think at this point we hope to be ahead of them, you don't still know exactly what's going on there and I'm sure they'll make some good progress, but we expected the probably to be a bit stronger than what they are at the moment. I think they've obviously got resources and they've got a lot of good people there so I'm sure they'll make progress as they have the past couple of years.

Crash.net
As a fan of the sport and with new owners coming in, are you happy with the direction F1 is going?

JP:
Yeah I think it's going in a really good direction now, I think generally everything about the cars is better, the overtaking's a question mark. I think all the mutterings are positive from Liberty so far.

Crash.net
What would you like to see introduced or changed?

JP:
I think the most important thing is to have cars that are more even basically, if it was closer between the teams then I think that's the main thing you can do to help the sport. The past few years it's been a Mercedes walkover, this year hopefully we're a bit closer, but in 2012 there was seven drivers winning the first seven races and I think around that time it was more competitive, so the main is to close up the competition.

Crash.net
Could that be achieved by scaling back the aerodynamics? It's a tough one because the cars have just been changed for this year.

JP:
Yeah but I also think that's a positive because you see different designs on the cars, and it's what makes the cars fast. If you scale it back it's last year's cars again and I like this year's cars! So I think making the cars slower is not necessarily a good thing.

Crash.net
Thanks Jolyon, good luck this weekend

JP:
Thanks!

By Josh Kruse