Thursday 8 January 2015

Palmer: ‘I’m not ready to give up on the F1 dream’

Jolyon Palmer's fine GP2 championship win last year - in the series considered by many the main feeder for F1 - led naturally to speculation that he would be seen on the F1 grid in 2015.

Jolyon Palmer at Autosport International 2015
outlined his difficulties in finding an F1 drive 
But in the months since all of the possibilities disappeared one by one, and now with all F1 race seats for this year filled it meant Palmer became the third GP2 champion in a row - after Davide Valsecchi and Fabio Leimer - to fail to be promoted to the sport’s highest rank.

At the same moment Palmer became additionally just the latest young up-and-comer to discover the sport's warped ways in (not) rewarding talent. That breaking into F1 is harder than likely it has ever been, due to a dwindling number of race seats combined with that many teams' financial plights ensure that driving pedigree is prioritised well behind the ability to bring money in who they select. And speaking at Autosport International 2015 today Palmer was frank about his situation.

'It does (concern) but I just know that’s the reality' Palmer said. 'So there's nothing I can do about it. I do my best on the track, and I think I did as good a year as I ever could have ever hoped for, winning the championship with two races to spare, which is something that neither of them (Valsecchi and Leimer) did.

'So I did all I could on the track, unfortunately there's now outside factors which I can't control. There's not a lot of cars on the (F1) grid, which makes it even harder, and there's big budgets involved as well which I don't have, so you've got a guarantee. You could do your best on the track which I did but you've got to do your best off it.'

But despite this Palmer was resolute that he is not nearly ready to give up on his F1 aspirations. 'So now we're working on something for the future' he said, 'focussing on a future in Formula One, and we just have to see what happens.'

When asked if that focus was for an F1 test role in 2015 Palmer confirmed: 'That's pretty much the aim. (As) GP2 champion I'm not ready to give up on the F1 dream just yet. I think there's going to be some opportunities in the future, for this year it's not going to happen, because there's 18 cars and 18 drivers already in them. But now we've got to work on the next best thing and that's to be working with a Formula One team, try and get some mileage in a car and prepare myself for 2016.'

Palmer admitted also to frustration at seeing those who he beat to the GP2 crown in 2014 such as Felipe Nasr and Raffaele Marciello being confirmed for F1 roles already for this year, Nasr in a race seat.

'Yeah it's frustrating definitely, but if they do a good job then I beat them in 2014, so I can benchmark myself a little bit off them.

'I hope they do a good job, I think they're both good drivers and I think the field last year was very competitive. It's frustrating but I've just got to do the best I can do. I'm not in that position. I don't have some of the backing that they have to get those drives despite beating them. I'll focus on what's possible for me and I still think we've got some exciting things in the pipeline.'

On the subject of how to get deserving drivers into F1, Palmer was supportive in principle at least of the recently-announced points system to qualify for an F1 superlicence, on the grounds that it will assist those with strong records in the junior formulae rather those with strong financial backing.

'I think it's not a bad thing to have criteria for a superlicence because previously it's been: you can get a superlicence with enough testing mileage; you can get enough testing mileage by just buying it. So anyone can get a superlicence. So I think having a criteria is good.

'I think the guys that do well in their respective championships should be rewarded more than people who haven't necessarily got the qualifications if you like but have got other resources to get the drive.'

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