Jolyon Palmer discusses his summer holidays and looks forward to the high-speed challenges of Spa-Francorchamps. Like any typical Brit, he also chats weather…
Good to see you Jo, what did you get up to over the summer?
I had a week of holiday in Corfu with some friends. It was fun to have a week off to do what I wanted. Then I had two weeks to get back in the zone!
What were your thoughts on Spa when you first encountered its flowing corners and long straights?
When I first drove it thought, I remember I thought it was incredible. The first thing that hits you is Eau Rouge. It’s just awesome. You see it on TV, or on the onboards or on the Xbox, but it is even better the first time you drive it. Nothing prepares you for heading flat out down the hill and then coming up the other side and down that straight. In the dry we are now easily flat, maybe just slightly under with high fuel in the race, but it’s a real corner.
Any other corners that grab your attention?
The whole circuit feels very flowing and you can appreciate the size of it. Pouhon is a very quick double apex left and it is probably the biggest challenge now. It also goes downhill so you pick up so much speed – even with the run off, if you get it wrong you’ll be off. Blanchimont is now easy flat but leads into the Bus Stop chicane, which is a great overtaking place when you scream round at the end of a fast lap. It’s very easy to get wrong, but hard to get right.
How have you fared in your races in Spa?
I actually won my first race at Spa, which was in Formula Palmer Audi. I remember it was wet – as always for Spa! I’ve had podiums in GP2 since but have always missed a win somewhere. I also started on the front row last time I went there. I’ve had some good memories but I’m eager to make some more!
What do you need to do well in Spa?
Qualifying is important, but in the race overtaking is easier than at other races. The biggest thing is to keep one eye on the weather as you always need to be on the right tyres at the right time. If you get caught out it’s such a long lap that it can take you two minutes to get back to the pits and change tyres, by which time you would have lost so many positions.
Would you have liked to drive the old circuit at Spa?
I would absolutely love to look round some of the old tracks like Spa and the Nordschleife and have a drive. I have seen old videos of the races there – each circuit is unique and incredibly high speed; I don’t think people liked going slowly back then!