Quick Chat: Gary Paffett
Gary, how would you sum up the 2017 season?
Gary Paffett: It was an up-and-down year. When you get to the end of the season, you tend to forget what happened at the start. Looking back, the start of the season was incredible. The car was great, and we were really strong as a team. The season was looking really good from there. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to keep that sort of performance up for the whole year. From my own perspective, I had a really solid year, scoring points in a lot of races, more than any other Mercedes driver. There weren’t as many celebrations in terms of race wins or podiums as I would have liked, but it was a really strong consistent season. The biggest achievement in the end was myself and Rob getting third place in the team championship, which was pretty good for the team. It was a solid season but not as spectacular as I would have liked. Obviously apart from Norisring which was pretty spectacular in a bad way. Luckily, everybody came away from the crash mostly uninjured.
You had the most Top Ten finishes of all six Mercedes drivers this season. But you must feel quite frustrated that none of those finishes was a win...
Gary Paffett: It is frustrating. I haven’t won a race in over four years now. But the consistency we had this year was really pleasing. You have to aim for that. You do indeed get race wins by hard work, but sometimes they come by chance. If you look at some of the race wins this year, the drivers have been a bit fortunate with the safety car or strategy. We didn’t have the sort of race where a great result just fell into our lap. The points we scored were all due to hard work, which showed that we could consistently get the car to a state where we could score good points. What I felt this year was that we had good weekends when the car wasn’t as competitive as the others. I finished fourth at both Spielberg and Hockenheim, which was an incredible result considering the car we had. On the occasions where our car was really strong, we didn’t have a weekend as good as our team-mates, which is why they won a race and I didn’t. That was kind of the story of the year. But it was probably more pleasing that we were able to score points in so many races, because it shows my team and I are consistently able to get a really strong performance out of the car.
Mattias Ekström and you count as the veterans of the DTM. He narrowly missed out on the title in the grand finale at Hockenheim. You experienced a similar situation yourself a few years back. How difficult is it to come back from that?
Gary Paffett: I don’t know how Eki feels. My situation was a bit different, to be honest. I had a big lead in the championship mid-season, but it was gradually eaten away in the second half of the year. I was leading going into the final race and then lost the championship. That was really tough to take. It did take quite a long time to get over that, because it was something I had within my grasp mid-season, but our car wasn’t a match for the BMW during the last half of the year. They gradually took points off me. I think that, for Eki, it is a bit different. It was alternating between the Audi drivers during the year. So I don’t think that he had the championship in his grasp as I did in 2012. But if you are in the fight for the championship at the last race, it is tough to take when you come so close and you don’t win it. He will certainly be feeling pretty disappointed. It takes you a good few weeks to really get over it.