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 25 May 2017

  2. 18:28

    Follow GPUpdate on Instagram in 2017!

    F1
  3. 18:26

    Latest F1 photos: Thursday in Monaco

    F1
  4. Button 'had a little giggle' on F1 return 18:22

    Button 'had a little giggle' on F1 return

    Jenson Button says he "had a little giggle to myself" when he returned to Formula 1 action during practice for the Monaco Grand…

    F1
  5. Bourdais eyes return before end of season 18:07

    Bourdais eyes return before end of season

    Dale Coyne driver Sébastien Bourdais is hopeful he can return to the cockpit before the end of the season, after being…

    Indy
  6. 'STR must not get overexcited' - Kvyat 17:57

    'STR must not get overexcited' - Kvyat

    Daniil Kvyat says Toro Rosso must not get overexcited with its position towards the front of the Formula 1 pack during Thursday…

    F1
  7. Stroll's struggles same as on Playstation 17:18

    Stroll's struggles same as on Playstation

    Williams rookie Lance Stroll says he is struggling with the same sections of the Circuit de Monaco in real life as he does while…

    F1
  8. McLaren confirms it will stick with Honda 16:40

    McLaren confirms it will stick with Honda

    McLaren has made clear that its partnership with Honda will continue through the 2018 season, ending speculation of a switch to…

    F1
  9. Leclerc extends title lead with home pole 16:04

    Leclerc extends title lead with home pole

    Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc claimed pole position for his home event after topping Formula 2 qualifying in Monaco…

    F2
  10. Mercedes pins slump on set-up direction 15:58

    Mercedes pins slump on set-up direction

    Mercedes' tumble down the order from first to second practice in Monaco was a result of taking the wrong direction with set-up…

    F1
  11. Ricciardo feels Red Bull is 'in the window' 15:47

    Ricciardo feels Red Bull is 'in the window'

    Daniel Ricciardo reckons Red Bull is "in the window" to challenge at the Monaco Grand Prix after featuring towards the top of…

    F1
  12. Vettel still expects 'full force' Mercedes 15:23

    Vettel still expects 'full force' Mercedes

    Sebastian Vettel says he is still expecting a "full force" Mercedes at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, after its "weird…

    F1
  13. 14:36

    Monaco Grand Prix: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  14. Vettel dominates FP2, Mercedes quiet 14:33

    Vettel dominates FP2, Mercedes quiet

    Sebastian Vettel posted a pair of blistering laps to comfortably set the pace during Thursday's second practice session for the…

    F1
  15. Pirelli announces Hungary tyre compounds 13:35

    Pirelli announces Hungary tyre compounds

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has announced its compound choices for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Pirelli will bring the Super…

    F1
  16. 12:45

    Follow second practice for the Monaco GP!

    F1
  17. Video: Monaco GP carpool with Bottas 12:02

    Video: Monaco GP carpool with Bottas

    Go on a ride through the Monte-Carlo streets Formula 1-style with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.

    F1
  18. 10:37

    Monaco Grand Prix: Full Practice 1 results

    F1
  19. Hamilton sets record pace in first practice 10:32

    Hamilton sets record pace in first practice

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton topped Thursday's first practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix with the fastest ever lap around…

    F1
  20. Haas' new Formula 1 livery breaks cover 09:15

    Haas' new Formula 1 livery breaks cover

    Haas' updated Formula 1 livery has made its public debut, after Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen took to the circuit during…

    F1
  21. 08:42

    Follow first practice for the Monaco GP!

    F1
  22. 07:34

    Photos: IndyCar's universal 2018 body kit

    Indy
  23. IndyCar reveals new 2018 concept images 07:32

    IndyCar reveals new 2018 concept images

    IndyCar organisers have released several fresh, rendered images of the car that will be used by all series competitors during…

    Indy
  24. Palmer admits 'it's up to me to deliver now' 07:02

    Palmer admits 'it's up to me to deliver now'

    Renault driver Jolyon Palmer says it is now up to him to deliver points, following a difficult start to his second season in…

    F1
  25. Video of the Day: Ferrari on Monaco GP 05:38

    Video of the Day: Ferrari on Monaco GP

    Ahead of this weekend's action in the Principality, get Ferrari's lowdown on the Monaco Grand Prix.

    F1
  26. Wednesday 24 May 2017

  27. 18:04

    Latest F1 photos: Preparations in Monaco

    F1
  28. Vettel: Ferrari could have won all races 18:02

    Vettel: Ferrari could have won all races

    Sebastian Vettel reckons Ferrari had the potential to win all five races so far this season, but nonetheless feels that "we got…

    F1
  29. Drivers criticise new 'take-off ramp' kerb 17:43

    Drivers criticise new 'take-off ramp' kerb

    Several Formula 1 drivers have criticised the revised kerb laid on the inside of the Turn 16 apex (the exit of Piscine) at the…

    F1
  30. Button tipped to return 'like duck to water' 17:38

    Button tipped to return 'like duck to water'

    Lewis Hamilton reckons Jenson Button will return to Formula 1 action "like a duck to water" when he takes part in this weekend's…

    F1
  31. In photos: Button's return to the paddock 17:27

    In photos: Button's return to the paddock

    Jenson Button will return to Formula 1 action this weekend at McLaren-Honda in place of Indianapolis-bound Fernando Alonso.…

    F1
  32. Force India introduces triple T-wing design 17:04

    Force India introduces triple T-wing design

    Force India has introduced a triple T-wing design for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, as teams chase as much downforce as…

    F1
  33. Hamilton: 2017 cars 'like taming a bull' 17:00

    Hamilton: 2017 cars 'like taming a bull'

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton had described the challenge of racing 2017 Formula 1 cars as akin to "taming a bull", following…

    F1
  34. Button thought testing would be 'useless' 14:30

    Button thought testing would be 'useless'

    McLaren-Honda stand-in Jenson Button insists he is happy with his preparations for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, claiming…

    F1
  35. Pérez eyes occasional Red Bull challenge 12:22

    Pérez eyes occasional Red Bull challenge

    Force India driver Sergio Pérez is hopeful that the team can occasionally challenge Red Bull in Formula 1 this year, following…

    F1
  36. 11:49

    Gallery: Monaco charity football match

    F1
  37. Video: 'Mini' Monaco Grand Prix guide 11:02

    Video: 'Mini' Monaco Grand Prix guide

    Get a 'mini' Monaco Grand Prix guide with Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

    F1
  38. Several changes to Monte-Carlo track 10:31

    Several changes to Monte-Carlo track

    Several changes have been made to the Circuit de Monaco ahead of this year's race in the Principality, with track resurfacing…

    F1
  39. Force India to wear breast cancer ribbon 09:55

    Force India to wear breast cancer ribbon

    Force India has announced a multi-year partnership with Breast Cancer Care, which will see the famous pink ribbon displayed on…

    F1
  40. Video: Leclerc's favourite Monaco spots 07:12

    Video: Leclerc's favourite Monaco spots

    Ferrari-backed F2 title leader Charles Leclerc takes you to his favourite spots at home in Monaco.

    F2
  41. Feature: Leclerc on growing up in Monaco 07:02

    Feature: Leclerc on growing up in Monaco

    Ferrari junior and Formula 2 championship leader Charles Leclerc will race around his home streets, in Monte-Carlo, for the…

    F2
  42. Video of the Day: Monaco GP memories 05:32

    Video of the Day: Monaco GP memories

    Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and others from the Silver Arrows family share their Monaco memories.

    F1
more news