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F1: behind the scenes with Gary Paffett


An awful lot of would-be racing drivers probably think Gary Paffett’s got it made – as McLaren’s test driver he’s got a job to die for, regularly getting his hands on one of the world’s top racing machines.

On the other hand, what does it feel like to be just one step away from one of motorsport’s top jobs – piloting a car capable of winning the F1 World Championship but perpetually in the shadow of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, unable to actually compete?


It’s not often you see an in-depth interview with Paffett – but, as one of the British Formula One drivers, he’s someone we like to keep up with just as much as Hamilton, Coulthard or Button.

The BBC’s Newsbeat has recently sent sports reporter David Garrido off to Woking to spend a day with him – and the resulting report offers an insight into his working life.

For a short while in 2007 it looked like Paffett’s chances of getting in the race car had dramatically improved. With Alonso on his way there was wide discussion about who would take his place.

Both test drivers appeared to be in the frame. While the more experienced de la Rosa appeared to be the more obvious choice, Paffett had his supporters too.

His colleague had been implicated in the Spygate scandal and, while a fantastically aggressive, stylish and entertaining racer, he didn’t necessarily feel like the team’s best future prospect.

Would McLaren opt for another relatively untried youngster from its own stable in the hope of replicating its success with Hamilton – and finding a team-mate he could work with?

However, it was soon clear that Kovalainen wouldn’t be re-signed at Renault and that he was the hot pick in the driver market.

And so Paffett remained in his test role for another season. But what does that role really involve and how does he feel about it? Read on…

Revealed: What it is like to drive an F1 car

How do you become a test driver?

“It was my passion very young to be racing and I started racing go-karts when I was eight. It developed from there. I did eight years of that and started racing single seater racing cars when I was 16 and was very successful. Then I went up through the ranks and eventually McLaren approached me and offered me a job as a test driver.”

How do you become a race driver?

“I’m trying to find that out because I’m still a test driver! It’s very difficult to be a race driver because there are only 22 positions on the grid and there are thousands of drivers trying to get those places.

“I think as a test driver I’m in a very good position. I think you have to demonstrate that you are a fast driver, a very consistent driver and you understand most of the technical parts of the car. Most of all I think it’s about being in the right place at the right time when a seat becomes available.”

Read full report here.

View David Garrido’s video report on his visit here >>


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