Will Palmer enjoyed a successful Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup debut as he drove brilliantly to secure third place in the second and final race of the weekend at Monza in Italy.
The 2015 BRDC Formula 4 Champion showed both great overtaking prowess and defensive skills to secure a trip to the podium on his first race weekend in the championship.
With beautiful sunshine raining down on the famous Monza circuit, qualifying got underway with two individual sessions setting the grid for races one and two.
In the first session, Palmer had set a personal best lap time of 1min 50.321sec, 0.945 shy off then pacesetter Jehan Daruvala. As he threatened to go quicker in the closing moments, the red flag flew and he was unable to improve, leaving him an unrepresentative 12th for race one.
Last year’s McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner was able to show his true pace in qualifying for race two as he lapped the circuit in 1-49.344, just 0.110 slower than his Race GP team-mate Max Defourny who took pole, with Palmer claiming a strong third place start.
He made a good getaway in race one, making up two positions on the opening lap to finish the first tour in 10th position. He enjoyed a great battle with Sacha Fenestraz and Robert Shwartzman amongst others during the race but lost a number of positions in the final few laps after damaging his front-wing and eventually came home in 13th place.
Starting third for race two, the Southwater driver made a strong start but lost out to Lando Norris into the tight first chicane at Monza and dropped to fourth. He was forced to defend from those behind, which let the leading trio edge away in the opening laps but he held on to his position and then regrouped to begin closing the gap to Defourny, Daruvala and Norris.
On lap seven, Palmer found his way on to the back of Josef Kaufmann Racing’s Norris and slid down the inside of his fellow Brit into the Variante Della Roggia to take back third. He covered off Norris’ attempts to fight back and then opened up a small gap on subsequent laps as the race headed towards its conclusion.
Such was Palmer’s pace, he caught second-placed man Jehan Daruvala in the final few laps and fought hard to find a way past but was unable to secure the position. That allowed Norris to close and he was right on Will’s gearbox as the Northern European Cup field began the final lap.
The 19-year-old defended ably however and despite Norris pulling alongside Will on the run out of the first chicane, he saw the chequered flag in third place, half-a-second clear of his rival.
Palmer said: “It was a lively race. I lost a position on the first lap and had to defend a lot. But then I managed to break clear and towards the end of the race I caught Lando and Jehan. The key was our good qualifying for race two. In the midfield in race one, I damaged my front wing. Otherwise it would have been better. Now I’m really looking forward to my home race at Silverstone.”
He sits seventh in the overall standings with 28 points after the opening weekend. The next round of the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup takes place at Silverstone on 14/15 May as Palmer combines campaigns in both the NEC and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championships in 2016.
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