Impact Sport interviewed professional racing driver and second year Nottingham business student Jolyon Palmer. Last year, he was the runner-up in Formula 2 in only his second year driving in the series. When we spoke to him, Jolyon was out in Abu Dhabi testing for GP2 next year.
Hi Jolyon. How did the test in Abu Dhabi go?
Pretty good on the whole. I was running around 10th place, so I was one of the quickest rookies out there!
Was GP2 a lot more challenging compared to Formula 2?
At first it was a little bit. I had a faster car, but I got used to it quickly and wasn’t far off the pace. So overall, yeah it was a good week. The car was different but not too challenging in the end.
How hard is it to balance being a professional racing driver with studying for a university degree?
It’s not too bad. Overall I get my work done but I do need to take a lot of time off for the racing. It’s quite demanding on commitment and stuff, but I’ll probably find out this year how hard it is! Last year was alright, hopefully this one will be the same.
Do you ever want to just focus on one or the other?
Obviously I’d rather focus on the racing but it’s good to have academics to fall back on if it doesn’t work. For the moment, I’ll just keep going with both.
Last year you came 21st in the F2 championship; this year you really upped your game and came 2nd overall. What helped make this year so much more successful?
My driving has improved greatly compared to 2009. In my rookie year I was one of the youngest racers in Formula 2, so the extra year’s experience under my belt helped a great deal.
What are the benefits of going through a feeder series like Formula 2?
Formula 2 is really good because everybody has the same engine. You can tell who is the fastest driver based on ability alone, so it’s one of the best formulas for actually improving as a driver. It also helped having such a great team behind me! Hopefully I’ll be moving on to GP2 next year, so I’ll just have to see if I can get some sponsorship for it. But overall, this season’s been really good and allowed me to develop as a driver.
Does having such a successful father (former F1 driver and ex-BBC commentator Jonathan Palmer) add any extra pressure?
I’m used to the pressure by now. In my early years I found his experience really helpful as he was able to give me a few pointers in the right direction. I don’t really think about it, I just focus on winning each race – it doesn’t really affect me.
Other than your dad, who were your racing heroes growing up?
Definitely Ayrton Senna! Simply because he’s a racing legend. He died when I was 3 (in a crash whilst leading the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994) so I didn’t get to see him compete live, but having seen clips of his racing, it’s pretty incredible. Other than that (laughs) I quite like Fernando Alonso! (A controversial view if you ask Impact Sport!) I just really admire his attitude and determination.
What did you think about the F1 season this year?
I thought it was pretty epic! I definitely think Vettel deserved to win; he had some bad luck earlier in the season but ultimately he was the fastest driver.
Looking forward, is Formula 1 your ultimate ambition?
Definitely. If I’m in GP2 next year it’ll be tough but hopefully I can have a really strong season. If that works out and with a bit of luck, you could see me in F1 in 2012 or 2013!