Jolyon Palmer arrives in Bahrain for his second Formula 1 Grand Prix with confidence after his Renault Sport F1 debut in Australia that saw him just miss out on points, especially in the knowledge that the Enstone team have a lot of updates planned on the RS16.
The British driver finished eleventh at Albert Park, and admitted he had a lot of fun driving his first race for more than twelve months, and enjoyed the on-track battles he had during the 58-lap event.
“I really enjoyed it,” insisted Palmer. “Everything went very smoothly. I had a good qualifying and then maximised the car in the race.
“I was happy with the race; I had a good start and was wheel to wheel for quite a long time, scrapping hard – it was great fun. I wanted to get to the finish, and you always dream of stealing a point, but I just missed it with P11, which is really frustrating! But we can definitely build on this.
“In Australia we didn’t have any more pace in the car, but it was an encouraging start.”
Palmer felt he had no issues returning to racing after a year on the sidelines, and already feels at home at a team that is planning an extensive developmental programme during the season.
“It felt completely normal,” insisted Palmer. “The difference from GP2 to F1 is that there are bigger variables. People are on different tyres and strategies, so you have to work out whether you can realistically fight and keep position, but it was not a problem.
“I feel at home in the team. The team is operationally very good and we have more developments coming. The car is nicely balanced, the pace is good – all in all, it was a strong start, especially considering the takeover was completed just before Christmas.
“We have upgrades coming all the time and it should not be too long before we can fight for points consistently.”
Palmer participated in the opening practice at the Sakhir International Circuit a year ago with Lotus, and has fond memories of the previous year as well after taking a win and a podium in the GP2 Series.
He knows the track will evolve as the weekend goes on, and knows the importance of having a good second practice as it will better represent qualifying and race conditions compared to the other two practice sessions of the weekend.
“I raced there in GP2 and it’s a track I have been successful on in the past,” said Palmer. “I won the last race I did there, then I also had a podium. I also drove in practice last year.
“The track is OK. There are a lot of straights so plenty of overtaking opportunities, so we will find out more about the car in this trim. There is a lot of track evolution as it is very sandy at the start of weekend, and then the track gets more and more rubber down, so conditions change a lot.
“The weather is almost always sunny, but it can be quite windy, which can blow sand onto the track. The fact it’s a night race is pretty interesting as it’s still very dry.
“In terms of set up, practice 1 and 3 are hard as they are a lot hotter than the race but there is a lot we can do in procedural terms, such as aero tests. I will be more relaxed now I have one race under my belt, particularly as I finished all 58 laps.
“I feel much more comfortable after pre-season testing and am looking forward to going to a track I know and have won at before.”