Palmer surprised by McLaren progress

© XPB 

Jolyon Palmer confesses he is surprised by the progress McLaren has achieved over the winter, as he thought Renault could stay ahead of the British team in Melbourne.

Making his F1 debut at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Palmer has always kept expectations in check following the French manufacturer’s late takeover of Lotus. But with Enstone comfortably beating McLaren in 2015, the Briton hoped Renault had maintained some sort of edge over the Woking outfit in the midfield.

Palmer and team-mate Kevin Magnussen eventually qualified 14th and 15th respectively, behind Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

“I wish they [McLaren] were closer,” said Palmer, who finished 1.3s off the slower McLaren. “They've actually found a lot of performance compared to what we thought.

“I was thinking we might be ahead of them but they've obviously been holding something back a bit in testing. Maybe we can find a little bit in the race. We're not a million miles off them.”

Asked about his expectations for his maiden grand prix start, Palmer admits finishing in the top-10 might be too ambitious a goal though Melbourne’s season opener has thrown up its fair share of wild events over the past 20 years.

“It's the first race of the season, anything can happen. We've got to be there at the end. I'm sure there are going to be reliability issues. The radio ban hasn't played a big part but I'm sure in the race we're going to have quite a busy time.

“There's going to be a lot of work to do. Just get to the end. It would be great to nick a point or two, but pace-wise we're not quite there so it's going to take something in front.”

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