by Russell Atkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

Gary Paffett is entering in 2008 his third season as a full-time test-driver for one of Formula 1's true grandee teams, McLaren Mercedes, and he will likely be dovetailing that role with an all-out assault on DTM tin-top honours, a championship he clinched for Mercedes three years ago.

The Briton is well aware that he has a busy campaign ahead, but as he told Crash.net Radio, that's nothing he isn't already used to...

Q:
Gary, McLaren suffered a tough year off the track in 2007. How easy will it be for the team to fight back this year do you think?

Gary Paffett:
Quite easy I think. It was obviously a very hard year, but the good thing was the car performance was very good and both drivers performed on the track very well. We missed out on the drivers' championship by one point with both of them, but it was a very close year and as I say the car was very competitive, so I think it should be quite easy to forget what happened last year and move forward.

We've got a new driver line-up, and I think we can just look forward to making sure we've got a very competitive car. I don't think it will be too difficult to get over it - it's obviously going to have its impact, but hopefully we can be winning races from the start and be challenging for the championship again.

Q:
The winter season is often called the off-season, but in Formula 1 it's also frequently said that if you stand still you move backwards. How much hard work has been going on at McLaren since the end of the 2007 campaign?

GP:
A massive amount of work; as soon as the season finished we were away testing, and already at the first test it was without traction control in preparation for this year. The work for the 2008 season began back at the start of 2007 with the preparation at the factory and the engineers and designers getting to work on the new car. It's just constant development; you have to constantly keep pushing your team and your staff very hard to get the best results.

The car starts the year nothing like how it will end the year, and the amount of development you get during the season is incredible. The amount of development over the winter when you build a new chassis is just as incredible. If you do sit back and rest on your laurels - which is far too easy to do if you're winning - it's so easy just to go backwards.

Q:
You mentioned traction control. Some drivers have spoken out to say they think there will be more accidents in wet races because of the ban on TC now. What are your views on that?

GP:
There have been some big accidents in wet races with traction control, so I don't think it's going to change. The problems you have in wet races are normally [down to] aquaplaning, and traction control can't help [you] when the wheels aren't touching the ground. It's going to be more difficult than before, but I don't think it's really extreme.

The drivers will have to deal with it and be a bit more careful in the wet for sure, but I don't think there will be too many problems with it making things too risky, because you drive the car to its limits. You don't drive it past its limits, so I don't think it's a big issue really.

Q:
As you say, there's a new driver at McLaren this year too in the shape of Heikki Kovalainen; what has he brought to the team so far?

GP:
Obviously he's only just joined the team. He signed before Christmas and he hasn't done much work with the team so far, but he's clearly got knowledge of Formula 1, knowledge of racing and knowledge from his time at Renault, so hopefully he can get in the car and drive quickly. I think we've got a pretty good development package with myself, Pedro [de la Rosa] and Lewis [Hamilton] continuing from last year, and hopefully Heikki can add to that and we can just pull together to produce a car that Lewis and Heikki can go and win races with.

Q:
Turning the attention onto your own racing activities, you competed in the DTM in 2007. How did it feel to return to the championship you'd won two years earlier?

GP:
It was great to come back; it's a great series, and I really enjoyed racing again. It's racing that I missed when I wasn't racing in 2006, and that's what I really loved about getting back into the seat. Winning at Oschersleben was a massive bonus for me, and that's what I want to do - I want to be out racing and winning races. That's the biggest aim for myself really.

Q:
You were in an older car than the 2007-spec ones. Did you expect to win a) so soon or b) at all?

GP:
I didn't expect to, no. There's no way of expecting to win [in a year-old car] - it's never happened before and it hasn't happened since - but certainly we had a chance to win a race and we took that chance. I think that's what it's all about; when you're in a year-old car you have to take your chances when you get them, and that's what we did.

Q:
How different was the series to when you'd last competed in it?

GP:
Not much different at all really. A lot of the same drivers are still in the cars; there's obviously a lot of development year-by-year with the cars and the new C-Class was a new shape, so there are some changes, but basically the championship is as strong as it's ever been. I think the driver line-up in the championship gets perhaps a bit stronger in-depth every year, so it has if anything become more competitive.

Q:
And how are things shaping up as you look ahead to the 2008 campaign now?

GP:
Good. Obviously I'm still with McLaren-Mercedes doing some testing and working with them, and I'm also probably doing the DTM again. We just haven't finalised everything yet so we can't release anything.

Q:
In a current car or year-old machine?

GP:
We don't know yet. We haven't really discussed much, so we just need to wait, have some discussions with Mercedes and see what is on offer.

Q:
But you predict another tough fight with Audi either way?

GP:
Absolutely; it is a real duel between the two German giants. Sometimes it gets a bit out-of-hand, but generally it's a good, tough battle and I think everybody really enjoys the series.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE