GP2 champ Jolyon Palmer quick in first F1 test despite engine/technical woes

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Engine problems in the morning and technical issues in the afternoon marred Jolyon Palmer’s inaugural Formula One test for Sahara Force India. However, the GP2 champion made the track time he did get count.

Palmer logged only 37 laps in the Mercedes-powered VJM07 today at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi but his best of 1 minute, 44.516 seconds was good enough for fourth on the time sheets behind F1 vets Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, and Nico Rosberg.

Following today’s outing, Palmer said it was “surreal” to wheel the VJM07 out of the pits but quickly got on with the task at hand.

“Despite a few technical issues early on, in the end we managed to get back on track and have a solid hour of running, getting up to speed fairly quickly,” he added.

“What really stood out for me is the power delivery of a Formula One car, compared to what I am used to in GP2: I heard lots about it all year, but to actually experience it first hand, feeling it as I drove was impressive.”

Chief engineer Tom McCullough thought the British youngster acquitted himself well, all things considered.

“He settled into the team very quickly and everyone was impressed with his approach to the day, especially his communication with the engineers,” he said. “The early part of the day involved some aero data collection, which went to plan and should give us some useful information for the design of next year’s car.

“It was a shame that we suffered an issue with the engine towards the end of the morning, which confined us to the garage for a large part of the day. The crew did a good job to get the car out for the final hour of running to give Jolyon some more valuable mileage.”

After claiming the GP2 title this past year, Palmer is naturally looking toward the global pinnacle of motorsport for 2015.

While a race seat may or may not be too much to ask right now, he’s hopeful that he can at least land a reserve seat – and he thinks Force India would be a good place to have that particular role.

“I have learned a lot working with the team, seeing how everyone operates, and I am really happy about today’s experience,” he said. “Sahara Force India is a team that gives young drivers good chances and I would love to get a role with them. They developed Paul Di Resta into a good racer, created a meaningful FP1 program for Jules Bianchi and generally do a really good work with their reserve drivers.”

Force India will turn over the VJM07 to European Formula 3 pilot Spike Goddard for tomorrow’s second and final day of testing in Abu Dhabi.

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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