In spite of it being eight years since his last full-time F1 drive – many of which have been spent pounding the test tracks for McLaren – Pedro de la Rosa never gave up on his desire to return to F1.
A substantial increase to the grid size was his best opportunity in years, and he was linked with the Campos project for several months before he was tempted by Peter Sauber to join his newly re-formed F1 team, having recently repurchased it from BMW.
The years spent touring the test circuits have given de la Rosa a fountain of knowledge and technical nous, perfect to help the Sauber team propel itself up the grid.
What’s for sure is that de la Rosa isn’t lacking in the speed department: he has a lengthy and successful junior pedigree in addition to his strong performances with his previous employers in F1. His last stand-in outings were particularly fun to watch, and few will forget a race-rusty de la Rosa attempting to overtake all comers at the 2005 Bahrain GP on his way to scoring the race’s fastest lap.
Like his fellow Spaniard and almost-team boss Adrian Campos, Pedro was a successful radio controlled car specialist in his youth, but he switched to karting and racked up several junior championship successes in Spain and Britain.
He graduated to British F3, but his funding ran out, and he made the shrewd move to Japan in the mid 1990s.
It proved a windfall for Pedro, as he rocketed to three Japanese titles: F3, Formula Nippon and Super GT. His outstanding performances reawakened interest in his talent, and the sponsors came knocking once again.
With backing from Spanish oil giant Repsol, Pedro was appointed as Jordan’s test driver in 1998. The following year, he debuted with Arrows, scoring a point with 6th place at his first race. He remained with the team for 2000, and impressed many in the paddock with his speed on his way to several points’ finishes.
With a contract in his pocket for 2001, he was dropped at the eleventh hour and settled with Prost as a test driver. By the fourth round of the season, he was with Jaguar in a straight swap with Luciano Burti. He stayed with the Big Cat for two seasons, and was dropped after the end of the 2002 season.
Pedro picked up a test driver berth with McLaren in 2003, and remained there for seven years before the Sauber call-up came along.
- Extremely motivated to prove, at 39 and the second-oldest driver in the field after Michael Schumacher, that he hasn’t lost his edge
- A wealth of technical knowledge, he will be crucial to the development of the C29
- He’s surely going to be race-rusty after a few years out of action. His race return at the 2005 Bahrain GP exemplified this.
- Prone to be inconsistent even on his best days, and could be frustratingly anonymous on some weekends.
What defines success in 2010?
- Prove to the doubters that a comeback was a good idea.
- Consistent points finishes and perhaps a podium.
[Images via StatsF1]