With First Points, Paffett Scales Steep Formula E Learning Curve
HWA Race Lab’s Gary Paffett scored his first points in the FIA Formula E at a rainy Hong Kong ePrix but admitted that, despite a strong qualifying pace and a top 10 finish, there was still much to learn going forward.
Both Paffett and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne made it into Super Pole from group qualifying, where sudden torrential downpours made the track conditions wildly unpredictable.
Paffett who started from 5th, ultimately finished the Hong Kong race in 8th place. Vandoorne was forced to retire with a driveshaft failure.
“In qualifying it’s all about getting the best out of the tyres, and certainly we managed to do that,” said Paffett after the race. “We hadn’t been here long enough to know what a good wet setup is, so it’s not as if we had a good wet setup, we don’t know what one is.
“So the setup we had on the car and the way we prepared the tyres obviously worked in the wet and me and Stoffel managed to drive it pretty well in the wet.
“You’re always trying to be competitive but it wasn’t as if we knew how to be quick in the wet – we were just trying to do the best we could and it worked out that way.
“It’s interesting – it’s nice to have that performance in the wet, we just want to make it a bit quicker in the dry.”
Paffett, a mainstay in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) since 2003, found himself grappling with a steep learning curve in Formula E as a rookie. Maximizing track limits and running as close to the barriers as possible in Formula E became a learning experience for Paffett, and was something he found familiarity with from his tenure in DTM.
“You have to approach street circuits differently. In this car you have to approach it more differently than a DTM car so, the way you can rub against the barriers but you need to do it in the right way in the right place, and I’m learning how this car likes to rub against barriers, and we’re getting closer and closer.
“The closer you can run to the barriers, the more speed you can carry and the better the lap time is, so that’s definitely part of being quick in Formula E, like it is at Norisring in DTM.”
Paffett said the biggest challenge as both a rookie and as part of a new team in Formula E so far had been the software-centric nature of the series, and mastering the electronic and brake-by-wire systems to work harmoniously together.
“The biggest surprise I think is how difficult it is to get everything right, especially with regards to the car setup and the systems – trying to get the braking system and everything to work properly – the drivetrain. That’s the most difficult thing.
“The car setup – mechanical car setup generally is what it is. But certainly getting the electronics and the systems setup has been the most challenging thing, and that’s the thing we’re struggling with the most. We’re getting there now.
“We are trying to figure out what it is that other people have built. We are a customer of Venturi effectively, customer of ZF. The car is a Formula E car built by Formula E, so we haven’t really built this car – we’ve been given it, and we are trying to figure out how to make it work as well as we can. ‘
“It’s not easy, but we are getting there step by step.”
Aside from outright speed in dry conditions, Paffett said one of the most pressing matters to tend to for the team now is to improve on the reliability of the car.
“Reliability is still an issue – my car stopped in practice, Stoffel’s car didn’t make the end of the race, so we still have reliability problems. That’s definitely an issue that we need to try and resolve.
“Again, being a customer we are not really in control of everything, so it’s a bit frustrating that happened. Reliability is still an issue but certainly the most important thing is to look at our race performance in the dry and try and improve that… we just need to make the car quick in the race.”
Images: FIA Formula E
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