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 3 August 2015

  2. 18:03

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  3. FIA homologates new FE powertrains 17:23

    FIA homologates new FE powertrains

    The FIA has homologated the new powertrains that will be used during the 2015/16 Formula E season, as the championship opens up…

    FE
  4. Horner: Ricciardo is 'back to his best' 14:24

    Horner: Ricciardo is 'back to his best'

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes that Daniel Ricciardo is "back to his best" after an aggressive drive to third…

    F1
  5. Verstappen sees Singapore as best chance 13:08

    Verstappen sees Singapore as best chance

    Max Verstappen says he regards the Singapore Grand Prix as his best opportunity to secure another standout result during his…

    F1
  6. Renault working through summer break 12:22

    Renault working through summer break

    Renault Sport F1's Director of Operations, Rémi Taffin, has said that staff will remain at work over the summer break in a bid…

    F1
  7. McLaren-Honda success took 'five years' 11:04

    McLaren-Honda success took 'five years'

    Ex-Formula 1 driver Stefan Johansson says it took Honda five years of hard graft before it enjoyed its previous "golden era" of…

    F1
  8. Villeneuve tests Venturi Formula E car 10:43

    Villeneuve tests Venturi Formula E car

    Former Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve tested Venturi's package for the second Formula E season last week, the team…

    FE
  9. Giovinazzi extends F3 lead in Austria 09:12

    Giovinazzi extends F3 lead in Austria

    Jake Dennis, Felix Rosenqvist and Antonio Giovinazzi shared the victories at the eighth round of the European Formula 3…

    F3
  10. Mid-season review: Mercedes stays on top 08:43

    Mid-season review: Mercedes stays on top

    GPUpdate.net begins its mid-season review series with Mercedes, which has continued its impressive form under the new turbo…

    F1
  11. Video of the Day: Sound of an F1 fire-up 05:14

    Video of the Day: Sound of an F1 fire-up

    In the next part of its video series, Mercedes partner BOSE presents the sound of a Formula 1 fire-up.

    F1
  12. Sunday 2 August 2015

  13. Rahal wins Mid-Ohio, boosts title hopes 21:44

    Rahal wins Mid-Ohio, boosts title hopes

    After all the animosity shared between Graham Rahal and Sage Karam in the last few weeks, it seems oddly fitting that a spin by…

    Indy
  14. Lynn: GP2 Feature win a 'big statement' 14:07

    Lynn: GP2 Feature win a 'big statement'

    British driver Alex Lynn is hopeful that his maiden GP2 Feature Race victory will propel him into contention for a Formula 1…

    GP2
  15. 11:22

    Photos: Verstappen demos F1 car at Assen

    F1
  16. Nasr achieves 'most goals' for first half 10:26

    Nasr achieves 'most goals' for first half

    Sauber driver Felipe Nasr has expressed his satisfaction after achieving most of the targets he set out for the opening half of…

    F1
  17. Video of the Day: The e.dams FE story 05:36

    Video of the Day: The e.dams FE story

    Look back at how e.dams claimed the inaugural Formula E teams' title with a round of the season to spare.

    FE
  18. Saturday 1 August 2015

  19. Dixon dominates, takes Mid-Ohio pole 21:36

    Dixon dominates, takes Mid-Ohio pole

    Scott Dixon thought he had broken the Mid-Ohio lap record in Q2 of IndyCar qualifying, but he was beaten well after the…

    Indy
  20. Video: Verstappen onboard at Assen 20:14

    Video: Verstappen onboard at Assen

    Watch as Max Verstappen tackles the TT Circuit Asssen in Formula 1 machinery for the first time.

    F1
  21. Bradl joins Aprilia for remainder of 2015 14:54

    Bradl joins Aprilia for remainder of 2015

    German rider Stefan Bradl has joined Aprilia for the remainder of the 2015 MotoGP season, just a day after he split from Forward…

    MotoGP
  22. Feature: GPUpdate's ultimate calendar 09:22

    Feature: GPUpdate's ultimate calendar

    The absence of the German Grand Prix, originally due to be held at Hockenheim earlier in July, raised debate at the GPUpdate…

    F1
  23. Video of the Day: Button's golden boots 05:06

    Video of the Day: Button's golden boots

    Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso wore special golden boots at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix to celebrate the 10-year…

    F1
  24. Friday 31 July 2015

  25. Forward Racing, Bradl agree to split 14:53

    Forward Racing, Bradl agree to split

    Forward Racing and Stefan Bradl have agreed to part ways, the team announced on Friday. Bradl's exit follows the arrest of…

    MotoGP
  26. Gutiérrez to demo Ferrari F1 car in Mexico 12:36

    Gutiérrez to demo Ferrari F1 car in Mexico

    Esteban Gutiérrez returns to his home nation of Mexico for a Formula 1 demo this weekend. Gutiérrez, Ferrari's reserve…

    F1
  27. Elías to replace injured Abraham at Indy 10:46

    Elías to replace injured Abraham at Indy

    MotoGP race winner Toni Elías will return to the championship at next weekend's Indianapolis Grand Prix, replacing the injured…

    MotoGP
  28. Tost wants token system overhaul 10:02

    Tost wants token system overhaul

    Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost has backed a full review of Formula 1's current engine development token system, describing the…

    F1
  29. Ericsson rues 'missed opportunities' 09:28

    Ericsson rues 'missed opportunities'

    Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson says that he ends the opening half of his first season with the Swiss team regretting a series of…

    F1
  30. Alonso tempted by other categories 07:54

    Alonso tempted by other categories

    McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso has admitted that he is tempted by a switch to other categories in the future, claiming…

    F1
  31. Video of the Day: Fittipaldi on young drivers 05:21

    Video of the Day: Fittipaldi on young drivers

    Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi talks about developing today's young drivers.

    F1
  32. Thursday 30 July 2015

  33. Walker quits as IndyCar competition chief 20:14

    Walker quits as IndyCar competition chief

    Derrick Walker has resigned as IndyCar President of Competition and Operations, with a search for his replacement under way, the…

    Indy
  34. Wolff: Mercedes will overcome poor starts 14:34

    Wolff: Mercedes will overcome poor starts

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is confident that the outfit will get to the bottom of its recent start struggles after successive poor…

    F1
  35. Video: IndyCar drivers preview Mid-Ohio 13:26

    Video: IndyCar drivers preview Mid-Ohio

    Various IndyCar drivers look ahead to this weekend's round at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

    Indy
  36. Häkkinen: Vettel a danger to Mercedes 12:43

    Häkkinen: Vettel a danger to Mercedes

    Mika Häkkinen says Sebastian Vettel now represents "a danger" to Mercedes after the Ferrari driver stormed to his second…

    F1
  37. Hockenheim tickets set to go on sale 10:58

    Hockenheim tickets set to go on sale

    Advanced ticket sales for next year's German Grand Prix will begin later this week, with a series of discount packages on offer…

    F1
  38. Bahrain added to GP2/GP3 calendar 10:05

    Bahrain added to GP2/GP3 calendar

    GP2 and GP3 organisers have confirmed that Bahrain has been added to the 2015 calendar. Organisers had been working towards a…

    GP2
  39. Sauber bullish over car, engine updates 09:14

    Sauber bullish over car, engine updates

    Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn hopes the outfit will enjoy a post-summer break resurgence, with chassis updates and engine…

    F1
  40. Arrivabene: Räikkönen decision 'can wait' 08:34

    Arrivabene: Räikkönen decision 'can wait'

    Ferrari has suggested that no decision will be made over Kimi Räikkönen's future at the outfit until after the summer break…

    F1
  41. Video of the Day: Sound of painting an F1 car 05:27

    Video of the Day: Sound of painting an F1 car

    In the first of a video series by Mercedes partner BOSE, discover the sound of the perfect coat of paint.

    F1
  42. Wednesday 29 July 2015

  43. Vettel not ruling out title challenge 16:37

    Vettel not ruling out title challenge

    Sebastian Vettel has not ruled out fighting for the 2015 world title after notching up his and Ferrari's second victory of the…

    F1
  44. FE 2015/16 team names confirmed 14:07

    FE 2015/16 team names confirmed

    The official team names for the second season of the all-electric Formula E championship have been confirmed by series…

    FE
  45. Boullier 'guarantees' McLaren-Honda success 13:24

    Boullier 'guarantees' McLaren-Honda success

    Eric Boullier has offered a "guarantee" that the renewed McLaren-Honda partnership will succeed, on the back of its best result…

    F1
  46. Monza has '90 per cent' chance of new deal 11:58

    Monza has '90 per cent' chance of new deal

    Monza has a "90 per cent" chance of remaining on the Formula 1 calendar beyond 2016, according to Roberto Maroni, the President…

    F1
more news