Jolyon Palmer

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Sainz, Palmer, Vandoorne all take best F1 finishes in Singapore GP

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Carlos Sainz Jr., Jolyon Palmer and Stoffel Vandoorne all capitalized on chaos at the front to claim their best Formula 1 finishes in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.

A start-line crash between Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen combined with a wet first half of the race presented a golden opportunity to the midfield runners in Singapore, with Sainz coming out on top in fourth place.

Trailing only Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, Sainz capped off a memorable weekend in Singapore that had already seen him be confirmed as a Renault driver for 2018 by charging to fourth place at the checkered flag.

The result saw Sainz better his previous best finish of sixth in F1, something he managed on three occasions (USA 2016, Brazil 2016, Monaco 2017).

“Wow, what a day, what a result! I’d say this is probably my best day in Formula 1 up until now,” Sainz said.

“After a weekend with so much media attention, to put together a perfect weekend and finish the race in P4 is just amazing. To start the race on intermediate tires, then switch to the supersoft – where I struggled a bit during the first laps – and then make it to the end without losing positions is just the perfect way to celebrate a difficult weekend. It’s definitely one I will always remember.

“I had my flight booked to go back home tonight, but I’m definitely canceling this – we need to celebrate this excellent result altogether, this team have also done an amazing job this weekend.”

The man Sainz will replace at Renault next year, Jolyon Palmer, will also be in a celebratory mood after he dodged the minefield ahead to finish sixth, marking his first points since Malaysia last year.

“I’m so happy, it’s been a long time coming but today everything fell into place,” Palmer said.

“It was a tricky race with the drama at the start and the heavy rain but the circumstances put us in a good place to score some points.

“We had a good strategy, good pit stops and the car was good in the wet conditions. The next race should be even better.”

Palmer spent the closing stages fending off McLaren driver Vandoorne, who bettered his previous best effort of P10 to cross the line seventh.

“To race under the rain at the beginning was definitely not easy, so my main focus was just to stay out of trouble, which we managed to do. From that point on, I just managed my own race,” Vandoorne said.

“I think seventh place was really the best it was going to get for me today. Sixth was perhaps on the cards at one point, but it didn’t work out at my second pit-stop.

“After that, I just focused on getting everything I could from the car and maximizing the performance. Getting a couple of points means we finish our weekend on a high.”

All three drivers were the sole points-scorers for their teams, with Daniil Kvyat, Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso retiring from the race.

Renault: Speculation Palmer could be dropped for Malaysia ‘unfair’

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has called speculation Jolyon Palmer could be dropped for the next race in Malaysia “unfair”, stressing there is a contract in place until the end of the season.

Renault announced on Friday it had signed Carlos Sainz Jr. on loan from Red Bull for the 2018 season to partner Nico Hulkenberg, leaving Palmer without a seat for next year.

The 2014 GP2 champion has struggled to make an impact in F1, scoring just a single point in 32 races, and looks unlikely to remain in the sport next year.

Speculation has been rife that Renault was looking to get Sainz in the car as early as the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time as part of the deal to sign him.

Palmer was adamant on Thursday that his contract was firm until the end of the season, and Abiteboul backed this up, hitting back at the speculation.

“The reality is that Carlos will be in the car in Melbourne in 2019. Referring to the situation of Jo, it’s a speculation that we – him and the team – have had to live with for… I don’t know how many races,” Abiteboul said.

“Frankly it’s really difficult on Jo, and a bit unfair on Jo and the team. To a certain degree, it maybe has had a negative impact on his ongoing performance.

“Right now, what I see is that we have a car that is capable of scoring points in Singapore. That’s the focus and we have an ongoing contract with Jo until the end of the season.”

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said he was “not aware” of any possibility of Sainz leaving early for Renault, despite having Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly ready to make the step up if required.

Palmer adamant he will finish F1 season with Renault amid Sainz rumors

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Jolyon Palmer is adamant he will see out the 2017 Formula 1 season as a Renault driver despite speculation he could be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr. for the next race in Malaysia.

Palmer has struggled to make an impact with Renault since making his F1 debut at the start of 2016, scoring just a single point through 32 grand prix starts.

Renault is widely expected to announce the signing of Sainz in the coming days as part of the wider deal that will see it shift a customer engine supply from Toro Rosso to McLaren for 2018.

Reports leading up to this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix claimed that Sainz could even make the switch to Renault for the race at Sepang, taking place on October 1, with Palmer being dropped.

When asked about the speculation in Thursday’s FIA press conference at Marina Bay, Palmer insisted he would stay in the car until the end of the season as he remained under contract.

“I have a contract. I’ve got seven more races this year,” Palmer said.

“There have been suggestions for the past 35 races that I might not be at the next one, or in the next few, so this is nothing new for me. It’s water off a duck’s back now.

“I’ll be in Malaysia. I’ll be racing until Abu Dhabi. I’ve already said the same.”

With F1 seats for 2018 being snapped up fast, Palmer appears to have few options to stay in the sport if Renault does drop him, but the Briton is relaxed about his future.

“I don’t care too much to talk about it,” Palmer said. “I know what’s happening. I think there will be an announcement at some point in the future, not too long.

“For me, I’m excited about the future. I haven’t thought too much, but I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Renault not giving up in chase of Williams in F1 teams’ standings

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Renault is refusing to give up in its bid for a top-five finish in this year’s Formula 1 constructors’ championship despite trailing Williams by over 20 points heading into the final flyaway rounds of the season.

Renault returned to F1 in 2016 as a constructor after six years away, and has made progress through its second season back, scoring over four times as many points as in the entirety of the previous campaign.

Renault set a top-five finish in the teams’ standings as its pre-season target, but sits eighth with seven races remaining on 34 points, 21 back from Williams in P5.

Nevertheless, team chief Cyril Abiteboul says the Enstone crew remains determined to give its all through the closing stages of the season, not relenting in its bid to catch Williams.

“We are now focusing on these busy Asia rounds. Williams sit just 21 points ahead of us in fifth place
in the constructors’ championship and, with seven races to go, it’s very much in our capability to chase
that down by the end of the season,” Abiteboul said.

“We need to create some momentum and string together some consistent results with both cars inside the top ten. Singapore will be vital to kick start this effort.”

Abiteboul confirmed in Renault’s pre-race preview that two personnel changes had come into play in time for Singapore, intended to boost its bid to catch Williams.

“Track side, from the Singapore Grand Prix, Matthieu Dubois takes on the role of head of race strategy of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. He will functionally report to our Sporting Director Alan Permane,” Abiteboul said.

“Matthieu joined Renault Sport in 1998 where he has held various positions including the one of Race Strategist at Enstone from 2008 to 2012. Up until now, Matthieu has been in charge of the customer track teams (Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso).

“Simultaneously, Ricardo Penteado, head of the engine track service, will take the direct responsibility for all three teams. In his day to day activities, he will be supported by the lead engineer from each team. He will also be in charge of liaising with our customers at the track.”

Renault still chasing top-five F1 constructors’ championship finish

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul remains confident that the team can secure a top-five finish in this years’ constructors’ championship despite sitting eighth with half of the season complete.

Renault returned to F1 with a works team in 2016, but struggled to make much of an impression on-track as it recovered from the financial difficulties that blighted the Lotus team it took over.

While progress has been clear through 2017, the team already more than tripling its points total, it has still struggled to make much of an impact on F1’s midfield.

Nico Hulkenberg has led Renault’s charge, scoring all 26 of it points so far this season, taking an impressive sixth-place finish at Silverstone last weekend.

Renault boldly stated in pre-season that it was targeting a top-five finish in the constructors’ championship, and while it may still be three places shy heading towards the summer break, Abiteboul’s goal remains unchanged.

“We have shown at Silverstone that we are continuing to improve. Chassis developments, in particular the new floor, proved to be positive exemplified from Nico’s eight points and both cars showing strong qualifying pace,” Abiteboul said.

“It’s critical to back up this improvement with both cars finishing in the top ten in Hungary – we want to finish the first half of the season on a positive note.

“To achieve this, we need to put behind our reliability problems. We know our situation and the areas which require more attention.

“Our targets remain unchanged: we want to be sixth by the end of play on 30th July and fifth by the end of the season. A double-points finish is well within our reach.”

Renault currently sits seven points behind sixth-placed Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship, and 15 shy of Williams in P5.