Gary Paffett has revealed that he is bullish about his chances of finally grabbing a spot on the grand prix grid in 2009, insisting that there is 'a door to be opened' at Force India – and that he is determined to be the man to open it.
The Bromley-born ace has tested for McLaren-Mercedes for the past three years, but the hoped-for call-up to join the top flight as a race driver has still not materialised, despite him being linked to the ultimately stillborn Prodrive F1 project back at the beginning of 2008.
Now, however, following McLaren's tie-up with Force India – in a deal that will see the Silverstone-based minnows supplied with Mercedes-Benz engines from next season onwards, as well as KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology and associated assistance – Paffett's name has begun to be mentioned in connection with the former Midland and Spyker concern, alongside fellow McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa and DTM colleague Paul di Resta.
“I've shown, certainly in the past, that my racecraft is good and that I'm a natural racer,” the 2005 DTM Champion told UK newspaper The Sun
. “Combine that with the speed I have in an F1 car, and it's a pretty good package.
“I've got three years' experience testing for the best team in F1. That in itself is invaluable for a team trying to develop a car, and would certainly put the pieces of the puzzle together for the relationship between Force India and McLaren.
“There's certainly a door to be opened with McLaren teaming up with Force India technically and with Mercedes engines and gearboxes, [and] I feel I am ready to race in Formula 1.”
The former McLaren/Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
– still only 27 – did acknowledge, however, that these are tough times for all involved in F1, with Honda's shock announcement last week that it is to withdraw with immediate effect reckoned to be just the tip of the iceberg.
“Things seem to be a little bit difficult in general at the moment,” Paffett recognised. “We'll just have to get through this patch and see what happens, but I am doing everything I can to get myself racing again.”