Jolyon Palmer is looking forward to returning to a happy hunting ground this weekend, as he bids to build on his impressive Formula 1 debut with a strong showing in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Palmer was one of the undisputed stars of the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne earlier this month, out-qualifying team-mate Kevin Magnussen and only narrowly missing out on a points finish at the first time of asking.
Handling the pressure in his stride, the young British F1 rookie was widely praised for his stellar effort. Having spent the intervening period chilling out and learning to surf Down Under, Jolyon is now champing at the bit to climb back into the cockpit of his Renault Sport Formula One Team R.S.16.
The Bahrain Grand Prix takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir in the heart of the Middle Eastern desert. Its long straights coupled with tight corners generate myriad passing places, and the twilight race is unique on the calendar as the only one to begin in daylight and finish in darkness.
Palmer boasts a sparkling record in Bahrain, having triumphed there en route to his record-breaking GP2 Series crown in 2014, and he is hopeful that his habitually strong Sakhir form will continue this weekend.
“I raced there in GP2 and it’s a track I have been successful on in the past,” reflected the 25-year-old Southwater racer. “I won the last race I did there, and drove in practice last year. There are a lot of straights leading to 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 the weekend, and then the track gets more and more rubber down, so conditions change significantly. The weather is almost always sunny, but it can be quite windy too, which can blow sand onto the circuit. The fact that it’s a night race is pretty interesting as it’s still very dry.
“In terms of set-up, FP1 and FP3 are hard as they are much 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 in Melbourne. I was wheel-to-wheel for quite a long time, scrapping hard, which was great fun. I wanted to get to the finish and you always dream of stealing a point. I just missed it with P11, which was really frustrating – but we can definitely build on this.
“I feel at home in the team. It is operationally very good and we have more developments in the pipeline. The car is nicely balanced, the pace is good, I feel much more comfortable after pre-season testing and I’m looking forward to going to a track I know and have won at before. We have upgrades coming all the time and it should not be too long before we can fight for points consistently.”