Gary Paffett delivered a sensational performance on home soil at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on Sunday during the second round of the DTM season to slice his way through to the podium from 11th on the grid – although a post-race judicial decision dropped the British star to sixth place.
Qualifying proved incredibly frustrating for Paffett, and the Mercedes camp as a whole, after being knocked out of the pole position battle in Q2. Although relatively happy with the balance of his car, the 2005 DTM Champion only just managed to make it through into the second run with the 16th fastest time – albeit only 0.3 seconds shy of the pace.
Missing out on the Q3 cut with the 12th quickest time in session two, the best of the Mercedes-Benz drivers, he moved up the grid into 11th position when pole qualifier Martin Tomczyk was excluded after his car was found to be underweight.
Opting to run an aggressive race strategy, Paffett made his first pit-stop on lap four to switch from the standard Hankook tyres to the softer ‘option’ rubber and emerged in clear air which afforded him a great opportunity to reel off some rapid lap times.
Climbing from 17th after his stop into the top six prior to his second mandatory tyre change, the Bromley-born driver rejoined the race in 16th and charged through the order once again. When all of the pit-stops had played out, Paffett was into the top three and after seeing off the chasing pack he took the flag on lap 98 celebrating his first podium of 2013.
However, as one of six drivers deemed not to have slowed sufficiently in a yellow flag zone, Paffett was given a five second time penalty post-race which pushed him back to sixth – a bitter blow after a superb performance by driver and team. He did, though, have the consolation of fastest lap.
Gary Paffett: “As a team, Mercedes seemed to struggle in qualifying. I just made it into Q2 and I got everything I could from the car, I pushed as hard as I’ve ever pushed in a qualifying session – I hardly took a breath out there! The balance of the car was OK, it was quite nice to drive, but we just lacked speed.
“After qualifying we would have been happy with sixth but after the job I did in the race, it is disappointing to have the podium taken away. It’s difficult to know the reference they take [judging if drivers have slowed sufficiently under yellow flags], I slowed enough I thought but not as much as was needed.
Our strategy was good, we went aggressive with the first stop and the performance of the car was good in race conditions. We have a good race car but just need to improve qualifying.”
Red Bull Ring in Austria will host round three of the DTM season over the weekend 1st/2nd June.