HRT F1 driver Pedro de la Rosa will be cracking open a bottle of sangria today, as the Spaniard is celebrating his 41st birthday today!
The Barcelona-born driver is making another full-time return to the grid this year with the backmarker outfit, although he has been something of a ‘super-sub’ in recent years, deputising for McLaren and Sauber on several occasions over the last ten years.
After dominant success in the Japanese formulae, de la Rosa’s first F1 venture was as a test driver for Jordan. Armed with Repsol sponsorship, he debuted with Arrows in 1999 (above), 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 he was offered a full-time drive with Sauber for the 2009 season.
The Swiss team had just undergone a major downsizing after BMW’s withdrawal from Formula 1, and it was thought that his years of experience would be a steadying influence as the team underwent its transformation back into being a privateer outfit.
Unfortunately the project dramatically failed to gel, and Pedro’s poor qualifying pace and lack of recent race mileage proved his undoing, while the team’s rookie, Kamui Kobayashi, proved to be a revelation in his first full F1 season.
It was little surprise that de la Rosa was dumped before the year was out, and although he returned to the team’s line-up as a stand-in at the Canadian Grand Prix, many thought the curtain had come down on his F1 career.
To say that his call-up to the HRT F1 team was greeted with surprise and bemusement would be a masterstroke of understatement. One can only hope that this comeback proves to be rather more fruitful.