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Q&A with McLaren's De la Rosa and Paffett 08 Jan 2008

(L to R): Gary Paffett (GBR) and Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Test Driver McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Sutton McLaren MP4/23 detail. McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Sutton (L to R): Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Test Driver, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mclaren and Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren. Mclaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Sutton
McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton The new McLaren MP4/23. Mclaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton

The launch of McLaren’s 2008 challenger marks the start of the busiest time of year for the British team’s test drivers and over the coming weeks Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett will be working flat out to get the MP4-23 ready for March’s season opener in Melbourne. Here the duo reveal why they’re just as excited as the team’s race drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, to get out on track…

Q: Pedro, you have been with the team for over five years, and Gary, you have been with the team for just over two years now. What advantages as a test driver does that give you?
Pedro de la Rosa:
Being in the team since 2003 gives me several advantages. The first is that I know every member of the team and their role within the team very well. All this saves time in order to achieve goals. Secondly, I have driven seven different cars, which gives me a good base to understand what we need to improve the car and make it quicker.
Gary Paffett: I think if you are with the same team for a long time you get a real understanding of all the people there and the way they work. Also you gel with the team and you understand which direction they want to go in and how to do the job most productively.

Q: The main difference in the regulations this year is the removal of driver aids, what input does the test driver have in developing the car around this? How much work has had to be done and what has been the main difference in driving?
Every season we have some kind of regulation changes and all we have to do is adapt ourselves and the car to these changes. People talk a lot about the removal of driver aids, but there is not much difference from a driver’s point of view. I have driven without driver aids for most of my life. However, the starts should be more interesting as it will be difficult to do them consistently. Regarding the car, we have made lots of detail changes which are a consequence of the simulation work already carried out and at the two track tests prior to Christmas.
GP: The main job for the test driver is to do all the initial simulation and track work to try and get the car as well adapted to the new rules and get the car as close to how it was before the changes. The work started a long time ago with Pedro and I using simulation to assist with the design of the 2008 car, which helps the engineers and gives them a direction to go in. This was then backed up with the first couple of 2008 focused track tests last year, which gave us a lot more data. With the removal of driver aids in particular we have been working to get the car as close to what the drivers will be comfortable in, so that they can just jump in the car without too much adjustment.

Q: 2007 was one of the closest seasons the sport has seen for many years. Do you think that 2008 will be just as exciting?
It should be even better as I imagine there will be more than just two teams winning races.
GP: I think so, there were a lot of high points in 2007, with the competitiveness of the cars and also there were quite a few changes in the driver line-ups for most of the top teams, which all contributed to a very exciting season. There have been even more changes this year and so I think that should add a bit more spice, and it should be just as exciting this year if not more.

Q: Favourite film?
The Silence of the Lambs.
GP: I don’t have a favourite film as such, but the ‘Bourne’ series of films are all very good, and I would say as a trilogy they are all my favourite.

Q: Favourite song / music track?
‘Manda Una Senal’ by Mana.
GP: I haven’t got one but ‘We are the Champions’ is always a song I like to hear for what it generally signifies.

Q: Favourite actor?
Jorge Sanz, Juan Echanove and Lucia Jimenez.
GP: Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller.

Q: The best dish you can cook?
None. Well, spaghetti with tomato sauce, but that is easy.
GP: Anything with pasta - I can do various dishes but that is the best thing I can cook.

Q: What would you never eat?
Frog legs.
GP: Eggs in any style. I just don’t like them.

Q: Most embarrassing moment ever?
Destroying a brand new Toyota Supra on an installation lap in 1996.
GP: There are quite a few, but in motorsport the most embarrassing ever would be when I did my first test with a top Formula Three team; I crashed on the out lap and did a lot of damage to the car.

Q: The day you will never forget?
There are many, but the days my daughters were born.
GP: Quite a few but in a non motorsport sense it would be my wedding day, and the most memorable motorsport-related day would be when I won the DTM Championship with Mercedes-Benz in 2005.

Q: Luxury you could not live without?
Shaving in the morning.
GP: It isn’t really a luxury but I could not live without my Vodafone mobile phone.

Q: Favourite corner and why?
Every corner where I am quicker than the rest.
GP: Turn Eight at Istanbul, because it is very difficult. It is blind for most parts, there are four apexes and it is very fast, therefore it is challenging and rewarding if you get it right.