14 January 2014
Paffett believes McLaren has learned from F1 2013
Test driver gary Paffett expects McLaren to move on from its 2013 F1 disaster and return to be a contender in 2014.
Gary Paffett expects McLaren to be more of a factor in F1 2014, having endured one of its worst seasons in living memory last year.
Despite boasting Jenson Button and Sergio Perez on its driving strength, the Woking squad failed to find the podium in 2013, and only made sporadic visits to the top five as its MP4-28 proved to be off the pace and difficult to set up. The team later admitted that a knee-jerk reaction to a slump in form the previous had set the path for last year's problems and vowed not to fall into the same trap for 2014.
Paffett, who has been a long-time test and development driver for the team, combining the role with a race seat with Mercedes in the DTM, believes McLaren will hold true to its promise, despite the formbook being ripped up ahead of a campaign that features all-new engine and drivetrain regulations and revised aero rules.
"We accepted that we made mistakes and there are areas of the car we know were problematic, but I think the problem was some of the areas were too big to fix during the season,” he told Sky Sports
"I am pretty sure we have a good idea of where we went wrong - but you can never say for sure, until you build another car, that you know exactly how it went wrong - but we have an idea of what we are doing with this year's car. It is a different car totally anyway, [but] we have learnt from last year's car areas we need to avoid going down. We certainly feel it is a bit of a fresh start for everybody and we are pushing very hard to make sure we get on top of it from the start.
"You can set your targets, but we are never going to know where we are until we get out testing and in the first race. Because it is such a big regulation change, you really don't know where you need to be. The lap times in the simulator mean nothing as you don't know what everyone else is doing and, with such a big change in the design of the car for this year, until we get to the first race, I don't think we are really going to know where we are."
Paffett's role has kept him busy over the winter, and he has already had a chance to sample the 2014 machine in the simulator, confirming the claim that the new breed of F1 machines are much altered compared to their predecessors.
"It is going to be exciting, the cars are very different to what we have had for the last few years,” he noted, “The downforce level in particular is a lot less than we have had - in the past the FIA have tried to reduce that but, this year, they seem to have successfully done i - and the cars are a lot more difficult to drive, especially with the different power unit and the amount of torque that the turbo engines produce. Even the medium to high speed corners are difficult without the blown downforce we have had in the last few years.”
Confirming that he expects the race drivers to have to change their approach behind the wheel, both mentally and physically, Paffett – who has yet to start a grand prix despite his long tenure with McLaren – expects to get the first real estimation of where the team stands when the car debuts in the opening pre-season test.
"It is going to plan and, when we get to Jerez, we will know a lot more about it, but I think just understanding the powertrain and how it all works is going to be the first target which isn't going to be too easy I don't think," he revealed.
“There probably won't be too much mileage on the first day, but we are going to be back in the simulator and ready for any feedback we can get from the drivers at track as to how we can help to develop the car over the first test.”
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