Gary Paffett is a legacy driver and worn leather shoe at the ripe age of 28. His misfortune started when, after a dominant performance in junior league single-seaters, he failed to land a F1 drive and thus toiled around in DTM from 2003 until 2005. He was gobbled up by the McLaren young driver machine in 2006 as a test driver and was rumored to be up for the teammate role with Fernando Alonso until rookie phenom Lewis Hamilton beat him to the seat.
He left McLaren to seek alternate climates and failed to secure a ride at Honda as Christian Klien beat him tot he testing role. So he returned to McLaren to join Pedro de la Rosa as the second test driver again. the 2008 season saw he tipped for a seat with Prodrive and that may have been a good thing but the Prodrive F1 project was stillborn and and left Paffett in the waiting room again.
I recall the late 90’s early 2000’s when everyone was touting the boy wonder Gary Paffett. He never seemed to me like a real contender and I got very tired of hearing his name associated with every driver rumor in F1 for 5 years. If McLaren, who owned him at the time, weren’t impressed enough then why should I be? He seems the eternal champion of missed opportunities and mediocre performance. BUT….
This week at Jerez has been a completely different Gary Paffett. I hurt myself rolling my eyes in an overly exaggerated motion when I heard he was going to test but to my, and probably many others, surprise, Paffett set the fastest time on the second day of practice for McLaren. posting a 1:18, he was the only driver to set a time under 1:19. The impressive drive was certainly Paffett putting himself squarely in the shop window with many team bosses looking on.
I suspect Paffett knows this could be his last chance for an F1 drive at 28-years-old. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain and to be honest, why not give him a shot? I can’t imagine a team like Scuderia Toro Rosso would do poorly with a veteran racer like Paffett or Lotus, Renault, Virgin, USF1 and many others. Paffett may not have received my accolades but you’re catching me at a weak moment around the holidays and I say, like the Grinch, I can have a change of heart. Let the kid have a season in F1 and see what he can do! If for any other reason so I can rule him out and stop hearing about him. I suspect he may just surprise me if he gets a full-time ride and that, to my chagrin, would be a very good thing for the Paffett family.
1. Paffett McLaren 1m18.718s 80
2. Hulkenberg Williams 1m19.184s + 0.466s 94
3. Ricciardo Red Bull 1m19.243s + 0.526s 93
4. Di Resta Force India 1m19.411s + 0.693s 58
5. Gutierrez Sauber 1m20.190s + 1.472s 68
6. Conway Brawn 1m20.222s + 1.504s 83
7. Ericsson Brawn 1m20.440s + 1.722s 37
8. Hildebrand Force India 1m20.517s + 1.799s 50
9. Bianchi Ferrari 1m20.585s + 1.868s 113
10. Di Grassi Renault 1m20.898s + 2.180s 55
11. Tung Renault 1m21.492s + 2.774s 67
12. Bortolotti Toro Rosso 1m21.761s + 3.043s 69