Interview with 2015 BRDC Formula 4 Champion - Will Palmer
16 year old Will Palmer is sponsored by Comma, and has just won the 2015 BRDC Formula 4 championship, a highly competitive prep school for aspiring Formula 1 drivers. Back in the day, Will's father Jonathan was a Formula 1 driver for the Williams and Tyrrell F1 teams as well as a test driver for McLaren Honda Formula 1, and his elder brother Jolyon, also sponsored by Comma, won last year's GP2 championship. We caught up with Will to see what goes on behind his helmet visor and Ignites his passion for the 'family business'.
How old were you when you decided you wanted to become a racing driver?
Although I've been around motorsport all my life, it was only actually at the relatively old age of 13 that I really considered becoming a racing driver. I remember having my first test day in a kart at my local track in 2010, and since then I haven't really looked back.
Including the 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Winter Championship – which you won – you've enjoyed great success at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk. Surely that's your favourite circuit, and if not, why not?
Snetterton is definitely a track I really enjoy driving. The new track flows very nicely with a great mix of challenging corners. It's a track where I seem to always have good results as well so I always look forward to going there! In terms of my absolute favourite track to drive, for the pure thrill it has to be Brands Hatch GP – it's so unique and filled with high speed, flowing corners with very little runoff, which makes it a really exciting, and certainly challenging track to drive.
Driving a race car is physically very demanding. What is your training regime?
The physical side of motorsport is often overlooked from the outside, but in reality it does play a big part. Obviously, the faster the car, the more physically challenging it is to drive, so although I don't struggle at all with the F4 car, I try to train as much as possible, without following a specific regime, to prepare myself for driving faster cars in the future. This consists mainly of strength work in the gym and running to improve cardio fitness.
At just 18-years-old, you are driving an extremely powerful racing machine. How do you mentally cope with the pressure of that, and racing wheel-to-wheel too?
It definitely helped me to start in Ginetta Juniors, which were very low powered cars, before moving to F4, so I was introduced quite gradually to more powerful cars. In terms of coping with a powerful machine like the F4 car, I think the confidence in the car comes naturally with more experience and familiarity with it. For racing wheel-to-wheel, the key I find is to stay as calm and as methodical as possible in the car even if it seems chaotic from the outside, which has helped me to have less incidents with other drivers than in the past.
Do you follow a very strict diet plan and what is it?
I'm a fairly tall driver at 6"1, so it's important for me to keep my weight down as much as possible, aiming for under 70 kilos. I don't follow a diet plan but I keep a rough track of the amount of calories I have in a day to keep my weight under control.
Your elder brother Jolyon is now a Formula One driver. Does he help you in your career and what have you learned from him?
Jolyon has been extremely helpful in my career – he has been through all of it himself so has so much useful advice for me from his own experiences. One of his strengths has always been his racecraft, which he has helped me with in the past to improve that area of my own driving.
Away from racing, what are your interests and are you particularly talented at anything else?
Away from the track, I have just finished my A levels and am going to Bath University in September to study Mechanical Engineering alongside my racing commitments. I also enjoy playing tennis and I play the piano, though to say I was particularly talented at either might be a bit far!
Does your Dad sometimes let you have a go in any of the amazing machines at his PalmerSport event in Bedfordshire, and have you ever gone head-to-head there with him or your brother? (If so, who won?)
We normally have an annual family day at Bedford, which is always really good fun, and far more competitive than it should be between the three of us! It's always really close between us and the order changes around all the time!
Current F1 title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg grew up together in karts. 10 years from now, who do you image would be your fiercest opponent if you were to be in a similar situation?
It's so difficult to know who will make it through to F1 nowadays, but out of the drivers I have raced against I would probably say it would be either Raoul Hyman or George Russell, who are both now racing in F3. I raced against both of them last year, and got on well with Raoul as my teammate, while George ended up winning the championship last year.
Racing drivers are generally viewed as being fearless. Illness apart, is there anything that really scares you?
I actually think it is important for a racing driver not to be completely fearless – the cars might be very safe these days, but every so often, as we saw recently, we are reminded of the dangers that remain in the sport. While I certainly wouldn't say I feel at all scared while I'm racing, there's a degree of underlying awareness about the danger that does exist which is in itself something of a safety measure, preventing dangerous manoeuvres which could result in an unnecessary accident.
Comma is Technical Partner to Duo BRDC Formula 4, and in addition to sponsoring Will Palmer in the 24 race series, supplies Comma brand lubricants, coolants and maintenance chemicals to all teams competing in the championship. Visit the excellent BRDC Formula 4 website at www.formula4.com to keep up with full results, race reports, information and features about the championship.