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Palmer: I’m driving better than ever

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Renault Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer believes that he is “driving better than ever” as he sets his sights on scoring his first points next weekend in Singapore.

2014 GP2 champion Palmer made his F1 debut at the beginning of the season with Renault, partnering Kevin Magnussen upon the French marque’s return to the series as a constructor after six years away.

2016 has been seen as a year of rebuilding for Renault after its takeover of Lotus, which struggled financially over the past few years, placing a strain on resources.

As such, the R.S.16 car has failed to allow either of its drivers to fight high up the field, the team’s only points coming in May’s Russian Grand Prix courtesy of Magnussen.

Palmer’s drought continued last weekend at Monza after a clash with former GP2 rival Felipe Nasr early led to both drivers retiring.

Nevertheless, Palmer is keeping his head up, confident that he can bounce back under the lights in Singapore.

“The summer break allowed me to recharge my batteries completely and now I’m fully in the zone,” he said.

“Spa and Monza were not the easiest tracks for us but Singapore offers more of an opportunity I think.

“I’m driving better than ever and I’m exceptionally keen to have a strong result after the frustration of Monza.”

Palmer is relishing the opportunity to return to Singapore, having won the GP2 feature race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in 2013.

“I love Singapore and it’s a totally different challenge from Monza. It’s a street race with close walls taking place at night so it’s a unique event on the calendar,” Palmer said.

“I’ve raced and won there in the GP2 Series and it was one of my best wins. In fact, I raced there two years running and both years were very good.  It’s a better opportunity for a stronger result.

“We see the circuit change a lot over the weekend as the surface rubbers in then the climatic conditions are reasonably different between FP1 and FP2, then FP3 and qualifying.

“So getting a good handle on the balance of the car gives us plenty of work as generally it’s cooler later in the night. It’s not a conventional weekend!”

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.