BAKU (Reuters) - Despite colliding with the barriers during Friday’s second practice session ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Jolyon Palmer has the backing of his team according to Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul.
Abiteboul publicly acknowledged this month that the British driver was under pressure to deliver for Renault after a fallow period in which he has yet to score a single point in the Formula One season.
By contrast, team mate Nico Hulkenberg has registered 18 points and sits 11th in the overall standings.
Palmer’s hopes of building his confidence ahead of Sunday’s street-circuit race in Baku were dented in Friday’s evening session when he became another victim of the unpredictable track, hitting the wall during a narrow section at Turn Eight.
“It’s a bit unfair to link today and the future,” Abiteboul told reporters.
“Today we saw a lot of drivers going a bit outside of the track - a lot.
“Jo has been one of those at a turn that unfortunately doesn’t forgive,” he added. “Unlike other turns.”
Palmer was one of several drivers to finish prematurely on Friday, with Sergio Perez of Force India crashing during the afternoon session, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who ended both practices with the fastest time, colliding with the barriers late in his evening drive.
“If you want to link that to the bigger picture for Jo, our situation is very clear: he has a contract with us; we are completely committed to helping him get through the period, which is a tough period, that’s obvious,” Abiteboul added.
“He has no ultimatum, but having said that he has to deliver, like every single member of the team.
“I think what will help him is that frankly we take him out of the spotlight under which he is constantly, all the media attention is not necessarily helping,” the 39-year-old added.
“We are trying our best to protect him but at the same time to do the best as a team to explain to him what we are expecting and we had that type of conversation with him yesterday - go through the metrics and try to define the targets short to medium terms so that he can improve.”
Reporting by Ed Dove, editing by Ed Osmond