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. Monday 28 July 2014

  2. Räikkönen says sixth was maximum result 07:00

    Räikkönen says sixth was maximum result

    Kimi Räikkönen says finishing sixth in the Hungarian Grand Prix was the most he could have hoped for after a disastrous q...

    F1
  3. Video of the Day: Stories from Senna's mechanic 05:00

    Video of the Day: Stories from Senna's mechanic

    Neil Trundle, former Chief Mechanic to Ayrton Senna, discusses his time working with a legend of the sport

    F1
  4. 03:00

    Championship standings after Hungary

    F1
  5. Sunday 27 July 2014

  6. Bottas feels tyre strategy cost podium shot 19:54

    Bottas feels tyre strategy cost podium shot

    Williams driver Valtteri Bottas reckons he could have been in the podium fight in Hungary if he had chosen a better tyre...

    F1
  7. Mercedes to discuss Hungary team orders 18:18

    Mercedes to discuss Hungary team orders

    Mercedes says it will hold internal discussions with its drivers after the outfit issued team orders during the Hungarian...

    F1
  8. Force India drivers apologetic after incidents 17:56

    Force India drivers apologetic after incidents

    Force India drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez have both apologised to their team after retiring from the Hungarian G...

    F1
  9. Button laments misleading weather forecast 17:14

    Button laments misleading weather forecast

    Jenson Button was left to lament a missed opportunity after getting caught out by false rain predictions in the Hungarian...

    F1
  10. Rosberg: First Safety Car wrecked race 16:57

    Rosberg: First Safety Car wrecked race

    Nico Rosberg says the timing of the first Safety Car period ruined his chances of winning Sunday afternoon's Hungarian Grand...

    F1
  11. 16:40

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday at Hungaroring

    F1
  12. 'Nice surprise' for Alonso and Ferrari 16:39

    'Nice surprise' for Alonso and Ferrari

    Fernando Alonso says finishing on the Hungarian Grand Prix podium came as a "nice surprise" to himself and his Ferrari...

    F1
  13. Hamilton grateful to recover to podium 16:28

    Hamilton grateful to recover to podium

    Lewis Hamilton admitted that he was grateful to recover to the podium after a first lap error during the Hungarian Grand...

    F1
  14. Ricciardo: Safety Car did not hand me win 16:00

    Ricciardo: Safety Car did not hand me win

    Daniel Ricciardo says he was made to work for his Hungarian Grand Prix victory, playing down the role of two Safety Car...

    F1
  15. 15:25

    In full: Hungarian Grand Prix race result

    F1
  16. Ricciardo wins dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix 15:03

    Ricciardo wins dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix

    Daniel Ricciardo claimed the second victory of his Formula 1 career during an incident-packed Hungarian Grand Prix. The Red...

    F1
  17. 13:40

    Follow the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  18. Button tips Hamilton to finish on podium 11:37

    Button tips Hamilton to finish on podium

    Jenson Button has tipped Lewis Hamilton to recover from his qualifying woes and finish on the Hungarian Grand Prix...

    F1
  19. 10:29

    Latest GP2 photos: Sunday at Hungaroring

    GP2
  20. Vandoorne takes GP2 Sprint Race victory 10:28

    Vandoorne takes GP2 Sprint Race victory

    McLaren young driver Stoffel Vandoorne came out on top in the GP2 Sprint Race at the Hungaroring after taking the lead at...

    GP2
  21. 09:05

    Latest GP3 photos: Sunday at Hungaroring

    GP3
  22. Niederhauser controls second GP3 race 09:04

    Niederhauser controls second GP3 race

    Arden driver Patric Niederhauser claimed his first GP3 victory since 2012 in the second race of the weekend at the...

    GP3
  23. Briatore to assist Formula 1 popularity drive 07:00

    Briatore to assist Formula 1 popularity drive

    Ex-Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore is set to be involved in a new working group being put together by Bernie Ecclestone...

    F1
  24. Video of the Day: Wind tunnel guide – Part 6 05:00

    Video of the Day: Wind tunnel guide – Part 6

    Sauber's Head of Aerodynamics, Willem Toet, continues his talk on the science of F1 wind tunnel design.

    F1
  25. 03:00

    Revised starting grid for the Hungarian GP

    F1
  26. Saturday 26 July 2014

  27. Mercedes apologises to Hamilton for fire 20:06

    Mercedes apologises to Hamilton for fire

    Mercedes has apologised to Lewis Hamilton after he suffered another technical problem during Hungarian Grand Prix...

    F1
  28. Coletti stripped of podium, Marciello loses pole 19:42

    Coletti stripped of podium, Marciello loses pole

    Racing Engineering drivers Stefano Coletti and Raffaele Marciello have been given post-race time penalties as a result of...

    GP2
  29. 17:09

    Latest GP3 photos: Saturday at Hungaroring

    GP3
  30. Stanaway holds on for Race 1 victory 17:08

    Stanaway holds on for Race 1 victory

    Richie Stanaway held off the advances of Robert Vișoiu to claim victory in the opening GP3 race of the weekend in...

    GP3
  31. Kvyat vows to learn from qualifying error 16:52

    Kvyat vows to learn from qualifying error

    Daniil Kvyat has vowed to learn from the mistake that prevented him from progressing to the final phase of qualifying in...

    F1
  32. Bianchi delighted with Q2 appearance 16:27

    Bianchi delighted with Q2 appearance

    Marussia driver Jules Bianchi was overjoyed after reaching Q2 for the second time this season during Hungarian Grand Prix...

    F1
  33. 16:03

    Latest GP2 photos: Saturday at Hungaroring

    GP2
  34. Pic claims maiden GP2 win in Hungary thriller 16:02

    Pic claims maiden GP2 win in Hungary thriller

    Arthur Pic claimed his maiden GP2 victory for Campos during a thrilling Feature Race at the Hungaroring, ahead of Stefano...

    GP2
  35. Magnussen to start from pit lane after crash 15:54

    Magnussen to start from pit lane after crash

    Kevin Magnussen will start the Hungarian Grand Prix from the pit lane as a result of the damage sustained in his qualifying...

    F1
  36. 15:50

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday at Hungaroring

    F1
  37. Vettel: Red Bull still far off Mercedes 15:49

    Vettel: Red Bull still far off Mercedes

    Sebastian Vettel has admitted that Red Bull remains a long way off the pace of runaway championship leaders Mercedes,...

    F1
  38. Bottas surprised by second row grid spot 15:36

    Bottas surprised by second row grid spot

    Williams driver Valtteri Bottas has admitted to feeling surprised over his third-place starting position for the Hungarian...

    F1
  39. Rosberg: I need to play it safe in the race 15:19

    Rosberg: I need to play it safe in the race

    Nico Rosberg says he will "play it safe" during the Hungarian Grand Prix, with title rival Lewis Hamilton starting at the...

    F1
  40. Räikkönen questioned Ferrari strategy 15:01

    Räikkönen questioned Ferrari strategy

    Kimi Räikkönen says he repeatedly questioned Ferrari's tyre strategy in the first phase of qualifying for the Hungarian G...

    F1
  41. Hamilton: I will struggle to score a point 14:39

    Hamilton: I will struggle to score a point

    Lewis Hamilton has said that he will struggle to salvage a point from the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver, 14...

    F1
  42. 14:29

    Hungarian GP: Full qualifying results

    F1
  43. Rosberg on pole as Hamilton hits more trouble 14:11

    Rosberg on pole as Hamilton hits more trouble

    Nico Rosberg claimed his third successive pole position during Saturday afternoon's qualifying session for the Hungarian...

    F1
more news