READY, SET… GO!

while wait­ing on the side­lines, Af­ter a sea­son spent in Fri­day prac­tice gath­er­ing valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence GP2 cham­pion Jolyon ses­sions for Lo­tus, 2014 2016. F1 race de­but in March Palmer will make his just af­ter the an­nounce­ment We caught up with him

F1 Racing - - YOU ASK THE QUESTIONS - WORDS JAMES ROBERTS PIC­TURES GLENN DUN­BAR/LAT

It’s an over­cast af­ter­noon in Mex­ico City and Jolyon Palmer sud­denly nds he has a lit­tle time to him­self to take a stroll around the Mag­dalena Mix­huca Sports City, which houses the newly re­vised Autó­dromo Her­manos Ro­dríguez.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties to walk a track in rel­a­tive peace come more fre­quently to test driv­ers, but since Palmer was conrmed as a Lo­tus race driver for 2016, his time is com­ing un­der in­creas­ing de­mand from en­gi­neers, spon­sors and the me­dia. F1 Rac­ing has man­aged to get a slot this af­ter­noon to ac­com­pany Palmer on an an­ti­clock­wise walk around the newly laid start/nish straight and into the sta­dium sec­tion of the new Mex­i­can GP track.

But be­fore we head off, Lo­tus’s PR chief Andy Sto­bart is­sues a stern warn­ing: “He must be back in the pad­dock for 4.15pm for a live in­ter­view with the BBC.” Jolyon him­self is no stranger to the mi­cro­phone, hav­ing played a role in GP2 comms through­out 2015, while his fa­ther, Jonathan, fol­lowed a decade-long ca­reer rac­ing in F1 with a stint as Mur­ray Walker’s side­kick at the BBC af­ter the death of James Hunt in 1993.

We pause so Jolyon can be pho­tographed on pole po­si­tion. When he makes his de­but next March, he will be hop­ing he is closer to the front of the grid than his fa­ther was when he last started a grand prix. The records show that JP Se­nior lined up 26th and last for Tyrrell at the 1989 Ja­panese Grand Prix.

Jolyon spent 2015 as a re­serve driver for Lo­tus, but a race seat be­came avail­able fol­low­ing Ro­main Gros­jean’s de­par­ture to the edgling Haas F1 team. Jolyon’s re­laxed de­meanour should pro­vide a calm­ing coun­ter­bal­ance to the ex­u­ber­ance of team-mate Pas­tor Mal­don­ado in the Lo­tus garage for 2016.

For now, Palmer is in Mex­ico and poised to make his 11th Fri­day morn­ing prac­tice run of the year. From the out­side, FP1 might seem rou­tine, but for a rookie th­ese ses­sions are in­valu­able in terms of learn­ing the com­plex pro­ce­dures that are a part of mod­ern F1.

“There is no sub­sti­tute for driv­ing an F1 car,” says Palmer as we look down the long straight to­wards Turn 1. “To be out in FP1 gives me a chance to prove what I can do. I’m not try­ing to set a new lap record, but equally I’m not hang­ing about. It fo­cuses me to prove my­self as it’s my only ses­sion of the week­end.”

In the lat­ter half of 2015, Palmer’s seat time in a couple of the 90-minute ses­sions on Fri­day morn­ing has been cur­tailed for rea­sons be­yond his con­trol. FP1 in Hun­gary was thwarted by the team’s nan­cial difcul­ties and the re­lated late de­liv­ery of their tyre al­lo­ca­tion. Then heavy rain struck in both Suzuka and Austin. But in

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