Lotus’s new signing for the 2016 Formula 1 season Jolyon Palmer did not expect Romain Grosjean’s switch to the new Haas F1 team due to the planned Renault takeover.
Palmer believed that Grosjean’s continued presence at Enstone would be intrinsic to the potential Renault buyout, which remains under discussion.
Grosjean’s exit opened the door for Palmer to secure the 2016 race seat.
“Honestly, I didn’t see it coming,” said Palmer, who confirmed his deal has both the blessing of Lotus and Renault.
“Because the Renault talks were progressing, and I thought it was linked around him – I didn’t see it coming at all. Then [Grosjean’s exit] suddenly opened the door for me.
“I found out [about his 2016 race deal] this weekend, I know it’s been close for quite a long time, well since it was announced that Romain was leaving.
“I got a phone call after pushing flat-out for months to get in, and it’s been edging closer and closer and I was hearing more and more good news. Finally, this weekend it’s come together.
“It’s been a long time coming. After winning GP2 [in 2014] I was ready to race in F1, I was pushing flat-out already. Then it didn’t happen, so I’ve been working so long and so hard to make this happen.
“I’m happy, relieved, proud – everything. Now I’m looking forward to racing.”
On the subject of what form he believes the team will take next year, Palmer said: “The expectation is that Renault is going to takeover the team.
“There’s a letter of intent that shows exactly what they want to do, and at the moment we’re working towards a Renault team.”
No fear of racing against big names
Palmer, whose father Jonathan raced in F1 in the 1980s, claimed he has no fear of going up against the established stars of the sport.
“I’m excited for it – what’s there to fear?” he said. “They are just someone in a car. Fernando [Alonso] has been at the back all year, so hopefully I can beat him if he doesn’t move forward. He’s just another driver to try and beat.
“In the FP1s I’ve done, he’s not any different to pass as Carlos Sainz. At the same time, it’s a good feeling because I grew up watching these people and admiring them for being great drivers.
“I’m looking forward to going wheel-to-wheel against whoever it is.”
Palmer says his confidence has been boosted by his FP1 outings alongside future teammate Pastor Maldonado.
“I know him well from this year already, been driving with him a few times in FP1s,” he said. “I’ve got some experience, and I’ve got no time to hang around.”
When asked if he’d been running similar fuel levels and tyres to compare himself against the Venezuelan, he added: “By and large yes.
“Since the summer break we’ve been trying a few different things, a new front wing and concept ideas for next year, so we changed the run plans a little bit.
“But the first half of the year, it’s been same fuel, same everything really.
“I’m happy I’ve been there or thereabouts with him over the runs.”