Gary Paffett is a British racing driver and one of the longest servants in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) which he won two times, in 2005 and 2018. He was a DTM regular since 2003, spending all fifteen seasons with Mercedes. He won twenty-three races. Except being DTM champ two times, he was a vice-champion four times.
During his DTM years, Paffett also worked with different Formula 1 teams (McLaren Mercedes, Force India, Williams) as a test driver, reserve driver or simulator driver. Before entering DTM, Paffett spent some time in single-seater competitions, winning the German F3 Championship in 2002, British F3 Championship National Class in 2000 and Formula Vauxhall in 1999.
When Mercedes withdrew from DTM at the end of 2018, Paffett stayed with HWA Team to race in the FIA Formula E Championship.
Early success in karting competitions
Gary Paffet was born on March 24, 1981, in Bromley, a small suburban town in greater London. As a kid, Paffett competed in the various minor karting races, but when he was 10 years old, he became the vice-champion of the British Junior TKM Championship.
A year later, he managed to win the title in the same competition and he also took second place in European Junior ICA Championship.
McLaren's Young Driver of the Year
Gary’s progress continued in 1996 when he became a champion in McLaren Mercedes Karting Champion and was second in British Junior ICA Championship. A stream of successes earned him a place in single-seaters and he immediately won the title in 1997 Formula Vauxhall Junior Winter Series. He was also awarded as the best newcomer to the series.
Even better performance Paffett showed the following year, winning all of 13 races in Formula Vauxhall Junior Class B. He moved up to Formula Vauxhall Junior Class and again won the title which was enough to be awarded as the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year.
British and German F3 champion
In 2000, Paffett added one more championship title to his account. He was the best in the National Class of the British Formula 3 Championship, driving a Dallara-Renault for Fred Goddard Racing.
A year after becoming a British F3 champion, Gary Paffett moved abroad. In 2001, he debuted in German Formula 3 Championship with Team Rosberg, finishing sixth at the end of the season. A year later, he was unstoppable and won the championship title being on the top throughout the entire season.
2003 - one start in the F300 and move to the DTM
In 2003, Paffett started a season in the International Formula 3000 Championship with Brand Motorsport, racing at Imola. The team withdrew from the competition after the first round and Paffett lost his seat.
Luckily, he was contacted by Mercedes who offered him a ride in DTM series. He was driving the #24 Marcedes-Benz CLK-DTM for Team Rosberg. The first season in the popular German touring cars championship was relatively good and he finished 11th in the points.
2005 DTM champion
Next year, driving the #7 Mercedes C-Class for HWA Team, Paffett confirmed his quality finishing as a DTM runner-up to Mattias Ekstrom, winning four of eleven races in 2004.
The best season in the career of the British driver thus far was probably in 2005 when he clinched the DTM title. Paffett won five races that year and missed the podium finish only twice, which was a revenge in great style to Ekstrom.
Formula 1 test driver since 2006
Those results weren’t unnoticed. Paffett announced that he won’t defend his crown in 2006 after McLaren Formula 1 team signed him to become a test driver.
Nevertheless, despite having a contract with McLaren, he never got a chance to compete in Formula 1 World Championship. He was out of DTM in 2006 but returned in 2007, continuing to serve in the same time as F1 test driver and regular DTM competitor.
Return to DTM and three-time runner-up
Instead of racing in Formula 1, Gary Paffett competed regularly in DTM as a driver of Mercedes Benz AMG. In 2007 and 2008 results weren’t so good, but in the following two years, Paffett was a title contender. In 2009, British driver finished second, just five points behind Timo Scheider while in 2010 he again was the vice-champion, losing the battle to his compatriot Paul Di Resta by only four points.
After finishing 7th in 2011, Gary Paffett in 2012 was a DTM runner-up again . He had an excellent start of the season but that wasn’t enough to bring him a second title. At the end, Paffett was only four points behind Bruno Spengler. In 2013, Paffett has won one race, at Lausitz, to finish sixth in the points.
Four seasons without DTM victory
Paffett was without wins in 2014, finishing 22nd in the points, what was his worst season in the DTM. For the 2015 campaign, he switched to ART Grand Prix team, newcomers in DTM, and finished ninth in the points but again without wins.
The season of 2016 was pretty the same like the previous. British driver scored only two podiums, at Zandvoort and Moscow, finishing 11th in the championship. One more season without wins followed in 2017, when he was again a part of HWA Team.
DTM champion before a switch to Formula E
In 2018, Paffett had a dream year in the #2 Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM, opening the season with a victory in the season-opening race at Hockenheim. He also won in the second round at Lausitzring and then in the fifth round at Zandvoort. He added seven more podiums to his account and won his second championship title in the year when Mercedes announced withdrawal from the championship.
Paffet easily found a new arrangement for his future career, moving to FIA Formula E Championship with HWA Team. In thirteen races of the 2018-2019 FE season, he took some points just three times, finishing 19th in the finals standings.
Focusing to GT racing in 2019
Parallel to his Formula E commitments, Paffett competed with Strakka Racing in the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge, driving a Mercedes-AMG GT3. He scored no wins or podiums.