Williams today announced the recruitment of Gary Paffett in their endless pursuit of making the Grove based outfit even more professional. The 2005 DTM champion developed unparalleled F1 simulator experience along with more than 20,000 km of F1 track testing in his 13 year association with McLaren which ended in 2013.
Claire Williams was unsurprisingly delighted: “He is a highly professional racing driver and his level of testing knowledge, and ability to analyse data, will significantly help to drive forward development of the FW38 throughout the season”.
Alex Lynn’s position at Williams is less clear given the recruitment of Lance Stroll as ‘development driver’ though Claire Williams was effusive when discussing his contribution to the team last year. “In terms of the job we wanted Alex to do, he has over delivered,” Williams told Autosport. “Alex is quite a complex character, he thinks a lot about everything that he does. He doesn’t just go crashing in there, everything is well-considered.
“He has gone through this development programme with us and he’s integrated across lots of areas of the business. Whether it is working in the simulator or with the guys in the composites, everything he has done, he has really outshone himself.
“The level of maturity for his age is quite impressive.”
Williams’ comments may lead seasoned observers to believe Lynn will be dropped by Williams and allowed to concentrate on GP2. In his rookie year, Alex won two races and finished sixth in the end of season driver standings, though Claire Williams believes he can do better. “GP2 was up and down for him last year,” she said. “He’s had some great moments but also some disappointing moments.
“But it was his rookie year in GP2 and we need to remember that. The series by its nature can deliver tough blows to these kids and can blind you to somebody’s true performance because of the nature of the grids.
“So in 2016, I think we’ll be able to see where Alex is as a driver.”
The retirement of Susie Wolff and the departure of Adrian Sutil has opened the Williams opportunity for Gary Paffett. Given his experience, Paffett could also fill the role of ‘reserve’ driver for Williams, though his ineligibility for a superlicense under the FIA’s new regulations is problematic.
The importance of the ‘reserve’ driver role became patently clear to all F1 fans during the 2015 Australian GP weekend. Valtteri Bottas injured his back during qualifying and was unable to compete in the race. Whilst Bottas could not have been replaced after Melbourne qualifying for the race by Williams, there was concern that he may not be fit in time for the following event in Malaysia and it was briefly reported by Sky that Susie Wolff was under consideration. However, Wolff was the team’s designated ‘test’ driver and not the ‘reserve’ driver as Pat Symonds explained. Adrian Sutil was soon after appointed the Williams ‘reserve’ driver and declared as such to the stewards prior to scrutineering in Malaysia.
Williams will surely appoint another ‘reserve’ driver though at present there is no indication who this may be. Whilst now available, it is unlikely Claire will be considering the team’s previous driver, Pastor Maldonado.