Jolyon Palmer sets sights on podium ahead of new season

15 March 2017 06:00

British driver Jolyon Palmer hopes to be popping champagne on the podium this season as he revs up for his second season in Formula One.

The 26-year-old from Horsham, Surrey beat all the odds to secure another campaign in the sport despite facing uncertainty over his future throughout his debut year.

Palmer finished an impressive 11th on his first outing in Australia, but in the ensuing races he was consistently beaten by his Renault partner Kevin Magnussen - the former team-mate to Jenson Button at McLaren - and looked destined for the Formula One scrapheap after just one term.

But Palmer steadily improved as the season wore on - securing his one and only point at October's Malaysian Grand Prix - before he was offered a new deal ahead of the penultimate race of the season.

And following Button's retirement after 17 consecutive seasons, Palmer will join Lewis Hamilton as the only representatives from Great Britain in the sport this year.

"With Jenson leaving there is one fewer British driver on the grid so for that reason there will probably be bigger interest in me," Palmer told Press Association Sport. "I hope my profile will rise because that means I am doing better.

"A year under my belt has given me a lot of confidence to come back knowing what to expect. I feel a lot more comfortable and the team can expect a big step forward.

"Last year was really difficult - everyone knew it was going to be - so this year we should be much more competitive which will reflect much better on me.

"The first target is for the team to be in the top five, which is certainly achievable, and if we can do that we will be able to fight for podiums at some stage of the year."

Palmer won the GP2 championship, Formula One's feeder series, in 2014 before landing a role as a test driver for Lotus the following year.

In October of that season, Lotus announced that Palmer would be handed a full-time seat for 2016, but the subsequent Renault takeover created uncertainty over his drive.

While he made it to the grid for the first race in Australia, Palmer was forced to spend the formative rounds of his career dismissing suggestions that Renault were already lining up his replacement.

But remarkably, Palmer not only survived the season, but fended off Magnussen to retain the seat for 2017. Magnussen subsequently moved to American outfit Haas with Nico Hulkenberg, the highly-rated German who won the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 2015, joining Palmer from Force India.

"Early on it was difficult and I quickly learnt that in Formula One you don't have any time to dial in," Palmer added. "You have a couple of bad results and people are straight on your back.

"But I blanked it out and when it was all going on with me and Kevin last year for the second seat I did not let if faze me and I did the best job I could. I removed myself from the personal side and I focused on what I could control which is driving the car.

"For this year, I feel much more stable and I have a really good relationship with the Renault management. I am confident in my ability and I have a team-mate who I really have got to go out and match."

Source: PA-WIRE