Pedro de la Rosa was one of the most sought-after men in the Montreal paddock after the last-minute announcement that the Spaniard was replacing the unwell Sergio Pérez for the remainder of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.
Pérez – who sustained concussion and bruising after a huge accident in qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix a fortnight ago – complained of feeling unwell after his return outing in Friday’s first practice session, and the team elected to call upon de la Rosa, the McLaren test driver who previously drove for Sauber last year.
And while Sauber had an inkling that Pérez might not be well enough to drive this weekend – more on that shortly – it appears that the noses of a few other reserve drivers were put a little out of joint…
Sauber confirmed that it had made contact with McLaren in the lead-up to the Canadian Grand Prix to enquire if de la Rosa could be placed on standby lest Pérez suffer any further complications this weekend.
“I was finishing lunch when [Sauber CEO] Monisha Kaltenborn showed up at McLaren and asked me, ‘Are you ready? It’s very likely you will have to get in the car’,” de la Rosa told the media after his return outing for the Swiss team.
“I checked my watch and it was ten to two and I said ‘But there’s 10 minutes to the start of the session!” he laughed.
“From then it was a crazy race to get my helmet, my overalls, my things at McLaren, sit in the car, and set up the pedals where I wanted. But we couldn’t do it, and we had to go out with the pedals where they were. But you don’t have to be nervous. It’s an opportunity and we have to enjoy it.”
Despite the earlier discussion between the two parties, de la Rosa was adamant that Pérez would have been racing this weekend, not wanting to get his hopes up.
However, Sauber seemed less confident, and sensible brought one of de la Rosa’s race seats from last year’s C29 car in case it had to call upon the veteran’s services.
“Martin Whitmarsh had told me that Sauber had called in case there was a chance, but told me not to get carried away. So I arrived here thinking it was impossible. I knew Sergio was fine and I was sure I wouldn’t get in the car, until ten to two,” de la Rosa added.
The 19-year-old Mexican – last year’s GP3 champion – was apparently in his homeland completing a history exam, but claims he would have been more than able to be called up to represent the team this weekend.
“It’s a shame to hear about Montreal, hope "Checo" [Pérez] gets better, but I never received indication to prevent this situation. I was ready…” Gutiérrez wrote on his personal Twitter account.
Another driver with a touch of the green-eyed monster syndrome was Force India reserve driver Nico Hülkenberg, who allegedly complained to Swiss newspaper Blick: “Did Herr Sauber not have my phone number?”
But it seems that Hülkenberg’s height might have been one of the overriding factors, while de la Rosa’s already-available seat mould was certainly one of the factors that could not be overlooked.
“[Hülkenberg] is too tall for our car. He is also employed by our direct competition,” team owner Peter Sauber told reporters after Friday practice. “Between us and Pedro’s McLaren, on the other hand, there is no conflict of interest.”
For Pérez, his absence is no doubt a blow for the young Mexican, but he earned particular praise for admitting that he was not well enough to race, despite having been given the all-clear to compete by the FIA medical staff.
“It shows his maturity. It’s not just about him but also about the danger of injuring someone else,” Pérez’s assistant Sallares Jaume added.
[Images via GP Update]