Gary Paffett is a well-known name to British motorsport fans everywhere, competing in the DTM series and also having a test role with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team. Gary progressed through the ranks of karting and junior formulae in the United Kingdom, and was also a winner of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 1999. Paffett also competed in the German Formula 3 series, British F3 championship and Formula Vauxhall Junior before finally making the move into the DTM series, where Gary has been able to perform strongly and also became the 2005 DTM champion.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview Gary, and I asked him what DTM fans can expect to see this season, driving for Team Rosberg and much more.
1. As a very young driver you took the traditional route that many others have taken in order to drive in Formula 1, what made you decide to drive in both the German Formula 3 series and subsequently DTM?
I was perusing a drive in a top British F3 team for 2001 and at the last minute the deal fell through. At this late stage it was difficult to find a seat in one of the top teams and that’s why I chose to go and race for Team Rosberg in German F3.
And it was while racing over there that I was spotted by Mercedes and given a chance at the end of 2002 to test a DTM car. I then joined the DTM team in 2003 after doing 1 race in Formula 3000.
2. You won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the year award in 1999, do you think this made it any easier to secure more sponsorship and funding and progress quickly to drive in the prestigious DTM series?
I don’t necessarily think it made getting sponsorship easier no. It is incredibly difficult to find enough backing to get all the way to F1 even when I was trying to.
It did give me a higher profile as a driver and helped get interest in me and most of all gave me my first chance at driving an F1 car for McLaren as part of the prize.
3. How difficult is it to juggle the demands of DTM and your test role with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team?
It is not too difficult, I have been doing it for a few years now and have got used to the busy lifestyle. I think that the fact that the DTM is just 10 race weekends makes it possible at all and both McLaren and Mercedes have been incredibly supportive of my desire to continue in both roles.
4. What can DTM fans look forward to this season?
As we have seen already in the first 2 races it is really close between all 3 manufacturers this year. The field is more competitive than ever before and the racing is unbelievably close so combine that with the awesome cars and the professionalism that the DTM has it is going to be a season to remember.
5. Why do you think DTM appeals to so many British fans?
It appeals to fans all around the world but I think the sheer fact that the DTM had has so many British drivers in the series recently defiantly makes the British fans more interested.
6. 2011 was a very difficult season for you. What lessons have you learnt from it?
It is actually quite difficult to pin point what exactly went wrong. We have identified a few small issues and made sure that we all do a better job this season. It was a very difficult season in which we had at some races a lack of speed and at other some mechanical problems so we just had a bit of bad luck at times.
7. What do you think about innovations this season, such as the new tyres and the paddle shift on the steering wheel?
It is defiantly a move forward in terms of technology for the DTM and the tyres especially make the cars a bit faster in the corners by giving us more mechanical grip. The paddle shift is a nice addition and the spec chassis this year makes it one of the safety racing cars out there.
8. How did it feel to take the 2005 DTM championship?
It was an amazing feeling. Winning a DTM title is very tough and doing it in only my 2nd full season was and incredible achievement. I am still to date the youngest ever winner of the DTM and am looking to add another championship very soon.
9. This is your eighth season in the DTM series, making you one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, how much more do you want to achieve in the sport?
I just want to continue to be successful. I really want to add at least another 1 DTM title to my name and try and keep myself at the top of the race wins tally for as long as possible.
10. How much would you attribute your success in Motorsport to Mercedes, Norbert Haug and Team Rosberg?
Certainly Team Rosberg did a great job for me in F3 and in my first year of DTM. But Norbert has been a big fan of mine from a long time and it is mostly down to his belief in my ability that I have had continued success with Mercedes in DTM and in F1.
11. What are your aims for the rest of the 2012 season?
To continue to fight for race wins and hopefully be a challenger for the title come the end of the season.
12. One last question, Wie gut sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Ha ha. I get asked a lot if I speak German and when am I going to learn. I know a little but I would really like to be able to speak it fluently. It is just difficult to find the time to learn.
Can I say a massive thank you to Gary for taking time to answer these questions, and I am looking forward to watching him race at the DTM at Brand Hatch in May. Best of luck for the rest of the season.
For more information on Gary’s career and to keep up to date, www.garypaffett.com. Follow Gary on Twitter: @GaryPaffett.