F1: GP2 champ Jolyon Palmer becomes third/reserve driver at Lotus

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Following his first Formula One test last November, GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer expressed hope of finding, if not a race seat, then a reserve role with an F1 team in 2015.

As of this morning, that’s mission accomplished for the young British driver.

On Palmer’s 24th birthday, Lotus has announced that he’ll become theiir third/reserve driver behind Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado for this upcoming season.

“My main aim is to race in Formula 1, so I’ll be working as hard as I can on every aspect of my new job,” he told Lotus’ official website. “Working as a third driver is the next best thing to being a race driver. I’ll be working with the engineers throughout the season whether I’m in the car or not.

“There is a lot to learn and I’ll be working to make a valuable contribution to the E23’s development. Every time I’m in the car, I’ll try to give my very best. It’s not just being quick, but also working with the engineers and the team as well.”

Palmer is expected to drive in a ‘significant number’ of Friday practice sessions, conduct test and development work, and accompany the team to all races.

While he admits to being “a bit sad” that he won’t be actually competing on the track, he says he understands.

“It’s certainly a change and something different…Racing is my favorite part of being a driver, obviously, but I have to look at the bigger picture,” he explained.

“With no race seats available this year, I will still be driving a Formula 1 car, I’ll be part of a prestigious team, one that will move forward, and my goal is to have a year out of racing now, working to be back racing in Formula 1, in 2016.”

Palmer earned four wins and 12 podium finishes last season en route to his GP2 championship.

In a separate release, Lotus president and team principal Gerard Lopez says he’s looking forward to having Palmer make contributions in Enstone.

“Jolyon is a fantastic talent and a very credible driver to fulfill the role of third driver at Lotus F1 Team,” Lopez said. “Romain and Pastor are both GP2 Series champions, so we know what a fantastic proving ground GP2 provides.

“For Jolyon to have enjoyed such a successful season as he took his title last year shows his superb potential for the future.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.