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Paffett makes F1 return with Williams, three years after last test

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Gary Paffett enjoyed his first Formula 1 test in over three-and-a-half years on Wednesday in Barcelona, turning in laps for Williams in its FW40 car.

Paffett, 36, has enjoyed a long-running relationship with Mercedes that saw him enjoy extensive test running between 2006 and 2013 with McLaren, its former customer team.

Paffett’s development role with McLaren ended upon its switch to Honda power for 2015, with the Briton focusing on his race duties in DTM with Mercedes.

After making his last public F1 test appearance with McLaren at Silverstone in July 2013, Paffett was back in action on Wednesday in Bahrain with Williams, contributing to its young driver running allocation (‘young’ being defined by any driver with less than three race starts).

Paffett enjoyed a trouble-free day, turning in 126 laps en route to eighth place in the final standings.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done a full test in a Formula 1 car! It’s really good to be back in the car, really good,” Paffett said.

“The cars this year with the increased downforce, and more grip in the tires, are really nice to drive. We’ve had a really good day.

“We’ve done a lot of laps, which is really good, and we got all of our testing done. That’s the purpose really, to get all the testing done, and then for me to go back and validate the simulator.

“So overall it was really nice to drive the car and I’m very happy with how the day went.”

Paffett may be due to appear for Williams once again in Hungary later this year at the second in-season test, given the British team currently has no junior drivers on its books.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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