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. Friday 24 October 2014

  2. Caterham F1 set to miss next two races 18:01

    Caterham F1 set to miss next two races

    Caterham is set to miss the next two Formula 1 races after Bernie Ecclestone gave the squad special dispensation to skip...

    F1
  3. 16:44

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  4. Video: Behind the scenes at Force India 16:34

    Video: Behind the scenes at Force India

    Take a closer look at the inner workings of Force India's factory at Silverstone in this behind the scenes video, featuring...

    F1
  5. Grosjean 'very close' to new Lotus deal 15:57

    Grosjean 'very close' to new Lotus deal

    Lotus is just "a few details" away from signing a fresh agreement with Romain Grosjean, according to Deputy Team Principal...

    F1
  6. Caterham handed over to administrators 12:10

    Caterham handed over to administrators

    The Caterham Formula 1 team's management has decided to step back and hand over to administrators, in the wake of a public...

    F1
  7. Video: Mercedes duo in engineering race 09:41

    Video: Mercedes duo in engineering race

    Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg take part in a different kind of battle.

    F1
  8. 09:39

    Latest MotoGP photos: Friday at Sepang

    MotoGP
  9. Pedrosa tops first day at Sepang 09:38

    Pedrosa tops first day at Sepang

    Dani Pedrosa set the standard on the first day of practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. The Repsol Honda rider...

    MotoGP
  10. F3 champion Ocon completes Lotus test 07:28

    F3 champion Ocon completes Lotus test

    Formula 3 champion Esteban Ocon has completed his maiden Formula 1 test with Lotus after receiving two days of running in...

    F1
  11. Video of the Day: Pedrosa's Sepang highlight 05:03

    Video of the Day: Pedrosa's Sepang highlight

    Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa picks his fondest Malaysian Grand Prix memory ahead of this year's event.

    MotoGP
  12. Nissany hails 'amazing' F1 test debut 04:16

    Nissany hails 'amazing' F1 test debut

    Roy Nissany described his first experience of Formula 1 machinery as "amazing" after enjoying a day of testing with the...

    F1
  13. Thursday 23 October 2014

  14. Caterham buyer refutes Fernandes claims 19:39

    Caterham buyer refutes Fernandes claims

    Caterham buyer Engavest "strongly refutes allegations" made by Tony Fernandes and Caterham Group CEO Graham Macdonald,...

    F1
  15. Fernandes blames Caterham F1 buyer 15:58

    Fernandes blames Caterham F1 buyer

    Tony Fernandes says the Caterham F1 team's buyer is fully responsible for the ongoing problems at Leafield, claiming that it...

    F1
  16. Ramon Aurin to be Pedrosa's new crew chief 15:00

    Ramon Aurin to be Pedrosa's new crew chief

    Ramon Aurin will replace Mike Leitner as Dani Pedrosa's Race Engineer next season. The Repsol Honda rider confirmed...

    MotoGP
  17. Buyer says Fernandes still owns Caterham F1 13:21

    Buyer says Fernandes still owns Caterham F1

    The consortium that purchased Caterham F1 at the end of June has insisted that Tony Fernandes did not transfer the relevant...

    F1
  18. Caterham F1 staff locked out of factory 11:54

    Caterham F1 staff locked out of factory

    Further doubt has been cast over Caterham's ability to contest the remainder of the 2014 Formula 1 season after staff...

    F1
  19. MotoGP reveals 25-bike entry list for 2015 10:55

    MotoGP reveals 25-bike entry list for 2015

    The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) has published a provisional entry list for the 2015 MotoGP season, with the...

    MotoGP
  20. Fong completes first F1 test in Valencia 10:13

    Fong completes first F1 test in Valencia

    Adderly Fong completed his maiden Formula 1 test on Wednesday, getting behind the wheel of Sauber's two-year-old C31 in...

    F1
  21. Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up 09:43

    Massa on Austin Fans' Forum line-up

    Felipe Massa, Sergio Pérez and Esteban Gutiérrez have been confirmed on the line-up for the upcoming Austin Fans' F...

    F1
  22. Video of the Day: Racing without a driver 05:08

    Video of the Day: Racing without a driver

    A driverless Audi RS 7 was recently sent out to tackle the Hockenheim circuit. Find out how it fared.

    Misc
  23. Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia 04:47

    Félix da Costa to make FE debut in Malaysia

    Amlin Aguri has confirmed that António Félix da Costa will partner Katherine Legge for the second round of the Formula E s...

    Formula E
  24. Wednesday 22 October 2014

  25. Caterham F1 bosses threaten to quit 19:37

    Caterham F1 bosses threaten to quit

    Caterham's new bosses have warned that they could be forced to step away from the F1 team, claiming that Tony Fernandes...

    F1
  26. Haas: First five years revolve around survival 17:06

    Haas: First five years revolve around survival

    Gene Haas is under no illusions about the task his Formula 1 team faces when it joins the grid, stating that he will be...

    F1
  27. Background: The Toro Rosso candidates 15:57

    Background: The Toro Rosso candidates

    New Toro Rosso recruit Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver in F1 history when he takes to the grid aged 17 next...

    F1
  28. Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation 15:12

    Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation

    Mercedes-Benz will stage the once annual 'Stars & Cars' event at its Stuttgart museum on November 29. Lewis Hamilton, who...

    F1
  29. Sam Michael set to leave McLaren 13:15

    Sam Michael set to leave McLaren

    McLaren Sporting Director Sam Michael is to leave the team at the end of the season. A McLaren spokesperson has confirmed...

    F1
  30. Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015 11:12

    Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015

    Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez says he expects to retain Romain Grosjean for the 2015 season, despite admitting that the...

    F1
  31. 09:43

    Photos: Márquez, Pedrosa visit Indonesia

    MotoGP
  32. Pérez on brink of new Force India deal 09:34

    Pérez on brink of new Force India deal

    Sergio Pérez says he is likely to sign a fresh Force India deal "in the next week", a move that would complete the outfit's...

    F1
  33. Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success 05:15

    Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff discusses the brand's maiden Formula 1 Constructors' success.

    F1
  34. Tuesday 21 October 2014

  35. Silverstone senior executives suspended 13:55

    Silverstone senior executives suspended

    The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has taken "a closer role" in the day-to-day running of Silverstone following the...

    F1
  36. Caterham insists team not threatened 12:25

    Caterham insists team not threatened

    Caterham has dismissed media reports suggesting that Caterham Sports Limited (CSL) being placed into administration will...

    F1
  37. Lotus mourns death of Total chief 11:08

    Lotus mourns death of Total chief

    Lotus says it has been left "shocked" and "deeply saddened" by the death of Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and CEO of team...

    F1
  38. Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name 09:50

    Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name

    The Spa-Francorchamps circuit says it will contest an application from car manufacturer Nissan to trademark "Eau...

    F1
  39. Video: Miami welcomes Formula E 09:30

    Video: Miami welcomes Formula E

    Watch as the track layout for the Miami ePrix, scheduled to take place on March 14 next year, is revealed.

    Formula E
  40. Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout 09:22

    Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout

    Miami has become the latest Formula E host to reveal its track layout for the electric championship. Produced by track...

    Formula E
  41. Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season 09:07

    Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season

    Pons Racing has confirmed that Óscar Tunjo will remain with the team in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series next year. The...

    FR 3.5
  42. Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C 05:11

    Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C

    Williams reserve Felipe Nasr sampled Keke Rosberg's 1983 FW08C at the team's Partner Day at Silverstone.

    F1
  43. Monday 20 October 2014

  44. Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel 17:54

    Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel

    Former Formula 1 team bosses Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali have joined the FIA's new Accident Panel, which has been put...

    F1
  45. Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races 17:14

    Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races

    Moscow Raceway has been granted an FIA Grade 1 licence, allowing it to stage Formula 1 races. The track, located some...

    Misc
more news