Exclusive interview with McLaren's Gary Paffett

Exclusive interview with McLaren's Gary Paffett

26 April 2011 – Reserve driver Gary Paffett has been a key part of McLaren’s rapid turnaround this season, helping to lift the Woking squad from midfield to front-running pace. The 30-year-old speaks exclusively about this plus his own assault on the DTM title, which begins at Hockenheim this weekend, with GPUpdate.net.

This is it, then – the start of the new DTM season…
Yeah, it’s finally here. It seems like the F1 winter is quite short but the DTM winter is quite long. Now the first race weekend is finally upon us, which is really good. I can’t wait to get back to racing, really.

When will you be heading out to Germany?
I’ll head out later in the week, get to the track on Thursday and start testing on Friday.

How strong a position do you feel you’re in for a consistently strong title challenge this year?
It’s difficult to know. In testing I’m obviously compared to my team-mates (Bruno Spengler, Ralf Schumacher and Jamie Green).

I think after last year and the past I’ve got a chance of competing with and hopefully beating my team-mates, which is the first goal. Then we’ve got to see where we (HWA Mercedes team) stack up against the Audi boys at the weekend.

It’s difficult to say with the new tyres; they’re not that different but there might be some subtle differences that favour either their car or our car. We haven’t done any testing with them, so we don’t really know where we are compared to the others, and that’s what we’ve got to find out this weekend.

Practice is always difficult to read, but in qualifying we’ll find out how we’re doing and how competitive we’re going to be against the Audis.

It’s always going to be close both within our own team and against Audi, but I certainly hope that I can once again fight for the championship and hopefully end up on the other side of a few points this year!

Does an F1 race seat still remain your goal, long-term?

Yeah, it’s still a dream of mine and an ambition I want to achieve. I’ve obviously got my work with McLaren and we’ve had a pretty good start to the season there. It’s still something I’m striving towards. It hasn’t happened this year, so we’ve got to just keep going and concentrating on DTM.

After all, I think success in DTM is something that’s very important; it has been for a few years but, certainly with what Paul (di Resta, 2010 DTM Champion) has done this year, I think guys in F1 are now really going to be looking at DTM as somewhere to find drivers. Success in DTM is very important in trying to get a drive in F1, so that’s what we’ve got to try and achieve.

Paul certainly is proving that, unlike a few years ago, DTM is now very much a hunting ground for future Formula 1 drivers…
It’s changed quite a lot in the last six, seven, maybe eight years, in that it used to be a touring car championship on its own. But now, because of the difficulties I think people have trying to find funding for GP2 – the funding you need for that is incredible – to come and race in DTM, which is a very high profile formula with very high performance cars and a very competitive field, is actually pretty good preparation for Formula 1 because of the high level it’s at.

You’re working with a big manufacturer, you’re used to working with the press, the PR and everything that goes with it, and Paul – even though he did some F1 testing last year - has shown that you can jump through from winning DTM to doing a very good job in F1. So I think it might well attract the attention of more F1 teams.

McLaren have had an amazing turnaround since pre-season testing. Can you tell us what the main changes were to allow for such a sudden increase in performance?

I think it’s the same thing that’s been going on for the last three years, really, about where to point your exhausts and to do stuff with your floor. It’s certainly become a talking point and the real important point of an F1 car these days is your blown diffuser and what you do with your exhausts.

We had a few different versions over the winter; one which we ran in pre-season testing, which didn’t really work, so we sort of changed things at the last minute and went with an option which seemed to give us a lot more performance. We found it in the wind tunnel, we found it in the simulator, it went and delivered on the track in Melbourne and we’ve been refining that ever since.

So it’s just a lot of hard work, really. I’ve always thought from the start that the car is good, fundamentally good, but we were just missing something in testing which we now seem to have found. We’re not there yet, we’ve still got work to do to catch the Red Bulls, but we’re a lot closer than people thought we were going to be in Melbourne.

So, yes, it’s been an amazing turnaround since winter testing and I think everybody in the team is just happy with how things are going. We’ve already had our first win of the year and it’s nice to get that in the bag so early on.

It’s academic now, but I know there are a lot of people on Twitter asking this question: Where do you reckon Lewis (Hamilton) and Jenson (Button) would have been in Melbourne if those car adjustments were not made before the first race?
(Laughs)…who knows, who knows! You’re talking a second off the pace, I think, of where we actually were in Melbourne, so you’re talking mid-field I guess. It is academic, as you say, but it would have certainly been nowhere near where they ended up being, that’s for sure.

So what do McLaren do now? We can see that Red Bull is still ahead when it comes to pure pace, so where is McLaren going to find that extra lap time?

It’s a good question. It’s just general development now. We’ve made the big step to where we are now from where we were – we were quite a long way behind and we’ve made a big step forward. Now it’s a case of chipping away at it, trying to make some more improvements.

We’ve shown, certainly in 2009, the rate of improvement that we can get during the year in comparison with other people; I think we’re very good at that as a team, improving the car during the season. So hopefully we can just start chipping away.

As I say, the exhaust and floor package which we introduced in Melbourne was last minute - it was the first time it had run on the car and was far from being refined. So we, and everyone else I guess, have got a lot of work around that area to try and maximise that. There are updates coming and hopefully they can deliver and get us closer to the qualifying pace of the Red Bulls.

But being ahead of Red Bull by as early as Turkey next weekend, is that possible?
It could be. Turkey was a good race for McLaren last year so, who knows, we could be.


Gary Paffett was talking to GPUpdate.net's Gregory Haines
Twitter: @GregoryHainesF1

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Thursday 26 May 2016

  2. Video of the Day: Räikkönen looks to Monaco 05:08

    Video of the Day: Räikkönen looks to Monaco

    Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen discusses the challenges of the Monaco Grand Prix ahead of this weekend's event.

    F1
  3. Wednesday 25 May 2016

  4. 18:04

    Latest F1 photos: Wednesday in Monaco

    F1
  5. Bianchi family unveils foundation for youngsters 18:03

    Bianchi family unveils foundation for youngsters

    The family of Jules Bianchi have unveiled a foundation created in his name, the Jules Bianchi Society, in order to support young…

    F1
  6. Hamilton: Crash reaction reflects maturity 16:26

    Hamilton: Crash reaction reflects maturity

    Lewis Hamilton believes that the way both he and Nico Rosberg reacted to their collision at the Spanish Grand Prix reflects the…

    F1
  7. Bottas hopes to end Monaco drought 14:39

    Bottas hopes to end Monaco drought

    Valtteri Bottas is confident that Williams can implement the lessons learned across the past few seasons as he chases his first…

    F1
  8. Ricciardo, Magnussen get Renault upgrades 14:04

    Ricciardo, Magnussen get Renault upgrades

    Daniel Ricciardo and Kevin Magnussen will receive upgraded Renault engines this weekend, after the B-spec power unit was sampled…

    F1
  9. Ericsson: Monaco best Sauber chance so far 13:30

    Ericsson: Monaco best Sauber chance so far

    Marcus Ericsson believes this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix provides Sauber with its best opportunity of a top 10 finish so far in…

    F1
  10. Pérez: Tyre degradation hurting race pace 11:56

    Pérez: Tyre degradation hurting race pace

    Sergio Pérez believes tyre degradation is the reason why Force India cannot currently match the likes of rivals Toro Rosso and…

    F1
  11. Rabat has successful shoulder surgery 10:46

    Rabat has successful shoulder surgery

    Marc VDS has confirmed that MotoGP rookie Tito Rabat has started rehabilitation process following his crash at last weekend's…

    MotoGP
  12. Canamasas keeps Carlin seat for Monaco 10:18

    Canamasas keeps Carlin seat for Monaco

    Sergio Canamasas will once again compete for Carlin at the second round of the GP2 Series in Monaco, as championship organisers…

    GP2
  13. London ePrix set for season three change 10:09

    London ePrix set for season three change

    This season's Formula E finale around Battersea Park in London has been given the green light, though the championship will need…

    FE
  14. Preview: Monaco Grand Prix - Round 6 07:46

    Preview: Monaco Grand Prix - Round 6

    Max Verstappen became the youngest Formula 1 winner after Mercedes' duo clashed at the Spanish Grand Prix. But what will happen…

    F1
  15. Video of the Day: Red Bull filming day 05:28

    Video of the Day: Red Bull filming day

    Go behind-the-scenes with Red Bull during a team filming day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

    F1
  16. Tuesday 24 May 2016

  17. 16:34

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  18. Video: Indy 500 qualifying highlights 15:12

    Video: Indy 500 qualifying highlights

    Watch highlights of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, in which James Hinchcliffe claimed pole.

    Indy
  19. Allison hails Ferrari test progress 13:52

    Allison hails Ferrari test progress

    Ferrari Technical Director James Allison reckons the team made solid progress with the handling of the SF16-H during the…

    F1
  20. Boullier: Monaco should suit McLaren 13:22

    Boullier: Monaco should suit McLaren

    Eric Boullier is confident that Monaco will suit McLaren's Honda-powered MP4-31 "more than other circuits", as the partnership…

    F1
  21. Video: Formula E dream driver line-ups 11:36

    Video: Formula E dream driver line-ups

    A selection of Formula E drivers reveal which motor racing stars they would love to go karting with.

    FE
  22. 'Negativity' hurts Sauber's investor search 11:02

    'Negativity' hurts Sauber's investor search

    Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn believes that the negativity surrounding Formula 1 is making it increasingly difficult to…

    F1
  23. Williams hopes for Monaco improvement 09:55

    Williams hopes for Monaco improvement

    Williams technical chief Pat Symonds hopes that the outfit can deliver an improved showing at this year's Monaco Grand Prix…

    F1
  24. Wolff: Mercedes must 'hit back hard' 09:06

    Wolff: Mercedes must 'hit back hard'

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Mercedes must "hit back hard" at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, following a double…

    F1
  25. Grosjean helmet pays tribute to Bianchi 08:50

    Grosjean helmet pays tribute to Bianchi

    Romain Grosjean will pay tribute to the late Jules Bianchi with a special helmet in Monaco. Grosjean's design features a…

    F1
  26. Video of the Day: Indianapolis 500 preview 05:10

    Video of the Day: Indianapolis 500 preview

    A host of IndyCar drivers look ahead to this weekend's centenary edition of the prestigious Indianapolis 500.

    Indy
  27. Monday 23 May 2016

  28. Force India still looking to maintain fifth 15:22

    Force India still looking to maintain fifth

    Force India team boss Vijay Mallya says the outfit is still looking to maintain fifth position in the championship standings…

    F1
  29. Baz could miss Barcelona due to foot injury 14:50

    Baz could miss Barcelona due to foot injury

    Avintia rider Loris Baz could miss the upcoming MotoGP round at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya due to the injuries which he…

    MotoGP
  30. Alonso: Monaco to test McLaren chassis 13:37

    Alonso: Monaco to test McLaren chassis

    Fernando Alonso expects to see where McLaren's chassis stands compared to its rivals at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, with…

    F1
  31. Hülkenberg sees Monaco as 'fresh start' 12:02

    Hülkenberg sees Monaco as 'fresh start'

    Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg says he is hoping to mark a "fresh start" at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, following…

    F1
  32. Mercedes drivers clear air after clash 11:38

    Mercedes drivers clear air after clash

    Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have held clear-the-air discussions following their dramatic first-lap clash…

    F1
  33. Nasr: Points would feel like a victory 11:12

    Nasr: Points would feel like a victory

    Felipe Nasr and Sauber have endured a challenging start to the 2016 season, amid a sub-standard package and financial woes.…

    F1
  34. Rossi: Mugello DNF 'weighs very heavily' 10:05

    Rossi: Mugello DNF 'weighs very heavily'

    Valentino Rossi says his exit from his home Grand Prix in Italy "weighs very heavily" after rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Marc…

    MotoGP
  35. Stroll opens lead with double Austria win 09:32

    Stroll opens lead with double Austria win

    Prema driver Lance Stroll extended his championship advantage in European Formula 3 with a double win at the Red Bull Ring, in a…

    F3
  36. Lorenzo lauds 'unexpected' Mugello victory 09:08

    Lorenzo lauds 'unexpected' Mugello victory

    Jorge Lorenzo hailed an "unexpected" victory at the Italian Grand Prix as he fractionally edged out Honda's Marc Márquez to…

    MotoGP
  37. Video of the Day: Button's Monaco preview 05:22

    Video of the Day: Button's Monaco preview

    McLaren-Honda's Jenson Button looks ahead to this weekend's Grand Prix on the streets of Monte-Carlo.

    F1
  38. Sunday 22 May 2016

  39. Resurgent Hinchcliffe wins Indy 500 pole 23:54

    Resurgent Hinchcliffe wins Indy 500 pole

    James Hinchcliffe completed a fairy tale comeback today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, capturing pole position for the…

    Indy
  40. Vaxivière survives treacherous conditions to win 15:53

    Vaxivière survives treacherous conditions to win

    Matthieu Vaxivière secured his first victory of the season as he mastered treacherous conditions in the second Formula V8 3.5…

    FV8 3.5
  41. Video: FE Berlin ePrix race highlights 15:24

    Video: FE Berlin ePrix race highlights

    Watch highlights of Formula E's visit to Berlin as Sébastien Buemi sets up a title showdown with Lucas di Grassi.

    FE
  42. 14:00

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Mugello

    MotoGP
  43. Lorenzo beats Márquez in Mugello thriller 13:58

    Lorenzo beats Márquez in Mugello thriller

    Jorge Lorenzo beat Marc Márquez by just 0.019s during a thrilling climax to the Italian Grand Prix as Valentino Rossi retired…

    MotoGP
  44. Haryanto admits future at Manor unclear 11:45

    Haryanto admits future at Manor unclear

    Rio Haryanto has admitted that his future at Manor remains unclear, and cannot be certain that he will finish the current…

    F1
  45. Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 2 10:02

    Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 2

    It has been a decade since Lewis Hamilton's GP2 triumph. In the final part of a special reflection, GPUpdate.net speaks to those…

    F1
more news