Will Palmer (R-ace GP) currently leads the Formula Renault Eurocup at the end of the first third of the season. With wins at Monza, Silverstone and Monaco, the Englishman is ideally placed to take on the three meetings in July. Can the younger brother of Renault Sport Formula One Team driver Jolyon Palmer keep the momentum going and win the title ?
We sat down for a chat with Will Palmer, who leads in the general classification after the first eight races. Seventh last year, the Englishman tells us about his start in single-seaters, his first campaign in the Formula Renault Eurocup, his wager to return with R-ace GP and his ultimate goal, the title.
A dynasty of drivers
“When I was younger, motor racing was very present in my family with my dad and brother heavily involved’’, says the winner of the 2015 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. “Nevertheless, I was never pushed do it. That is why I got a relative late start in karting when I was 13. I began to get really interested in F1 and follow Jolyon. So I decided to try it !”
To have two F1 drivers around the breakfast table can be a double-edged sword, but Will Palmer is only looking at the positives.
“It is really good to have the two of them with me. They have a lot of experience. They regularly give me advice or share the lessons they’ve learned from their mistakes so that I don’t repeat them ! As for the driving, I can’t really compare myself with my dad, and my style is quite different from Jolyon’s. I think it is due to the series’ that we have raced in. I’m so used to the comparisons by now that I’ve just come to always expect it in an interview !”
A meticulous first season
“Heading into my rookie season, I was hoping for better than seventh place”, admits the Englishman. The Formula Renault Eurocup has a reputation of being difficult for rookies. All the same, we managed to win a race last year and finish third in the rookie standings. I was thrilled with the progress I made throughout the season. The pace was normally quite strong, but early on I had to work on getting the most out of the tyres in qualifying, which are very peaky and so punish any mistakes badly. Because of this qualifying was a bit hit and miss early in the season, and in Formula Renault qualifying is hugely important as the races are short with no pitstops.”
“I also had to learn to adapt my driving style more to the Formula Renault throughout the season, as it requires a different technique to the F4 car. These improvements came both through experience and working with the team, learning from the data and adapting the setup more to my liking. In the second half of the year the pace was strong, and we were often in the top four in qualifying. One of the focuses of this year was to convert those qualifying results more consistently into good race results.”
A successful bet on stability
“It definitely helped me to stay with R-ace GP for this season. I am working with the same engineer and we were able to really consolidate what we learnt in the season last year in post-season testing last year. The goal was to be up front, but I didn’t expect to start the season so strong with such a high-level of competition. There is still a long way to go. For now, I am not paying too much attention to the standings and I prefer to concentrate on getting a maximum amount of points at each meeting.”
With six wins from eight races, the R-ace GP team has had a resoundingly successful start to the season. For Will Palmer, the success of the Thibaut de Mérindol and Cyril Comte run team is in no way due to chance.
“The team is in a really strong position this year with three returning drivers all doing well, and naturally that helps to push all of us forward. Sometimes one of us will be doing something a bit different at a corner that is working well, and we can then all learn from that by looking at the data. We also all work together when it comes to making any changes to the setup of the car ; for example, if we are all feeling a similar problem then normally this is the area we can focus on improving. The team is very meticulous and pays huge attention to detail, and is also very hard working. We spend many hours discussing setup or strategy decisions which I like to get involved in, and they are very open to suggestions.”
Just one goal
“My goal is clear, to win the championship”, concludes Will. “Clearly though there are a lot of other drivers with the same target, and we have had only eight of the twenty three races on the calendar. We must be fast and consistent. We will have to combine performance and regularity, and one is not enough without the other and vice versa. We cannot allow ourselves to casually lose points and we also have to seriously position ourselves for the championship. We have to get big points with wins and podiums. There is a huge amount of work to do still to achieve it, so I will just focus on doing the best job I can every weekend.”