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Q and A with Pedro de la Rosa
Pedro de la Rosa
He may not be racing in front of his home fans here at the Barcelona circuit this coming weekend, but that doesn’t mean that McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa is an important member of the Woking based squad. Here he speaks of his duties as third driver….

Pedro, how much has your role changed this year? Are you still doing pretty much what you have always been doing?

My role is pretty much unchanged. Obviously, we are very limited on mileage during the testing season and we have to maximize every mile we do and every set of tires. From that point of view it hasn’t changed at all.

So perhaps you can describe what that is.

It is the normal work that a test driver needs to do. First of all you have to be at every grand prix as a reserve driver and that’s why I am here. Secondly at the test sessions I am testing anything that is required by the team, backing all that work up in the simulation facilities at Woking and being of any help for the team. It is very similar to before but basically doing less kilometers at the track and spending more time in the simulator, so it is great fun.

You are not frustrated at not racing?

Yes, of course it is frustrating not racing. I have to be realistic as I am at that point of my career where I don’t have many more years left. Not because of me but because of the other people’s perception unfortunately. Every year that goes by it is just getting closer to a point where I won’t be able to race again. I am aware of that. I am a realistic person and I am just hoping that something happens for me.

Lewis had a little blip at the last race. How were you able to help him during that weekend and how have you been able to help him since?

A blip? What do you mean? A blip could mean also to go up. We hope that the blip comes here. Yes, he had a bad weekend but all we can do from the team’s point of view is to make sure that we make it as simple as possible for him not to make any mistakes. That’s what we have been focusing on for the past few weeks, to make sure that this won’t happen again. Not that he has to change anything, but from our point of view we make sure that is simpler for him to activate everything he has to from the cockpit.

Does your role include driver coach, giving advice to drivers or anything like that?

That’s not a part which is included in my contract but obviously I am just trying to be helpful for everyone. I am just trying to listen as much as I can and know what the biggest problems are. For example this afternoon I will walk around the track and see if there is anything I can see. During test sessions I am driving around the corners on the side-road just to see with my eyes if I can help. If I see anything I don’t like I go to the guys and I just tell them. I am very open and they can rely on me fully. They know I will always help, that’s my role.

Pedro, has your role this season with two quite young drivers become even more major than it was last season with Fernando in the team?

No, it is exactly the same really. The only thing for me that changes, that is more demanding every year for a test driver, is that you have very little kilometers available to you and whenever you are sat behind the wheel driving you have to be fully prepared. There is no room to have a run to feel warm and feel the car again. You have to prepare very well physically outside of the car because you are not that often in the car. That for me is the biggest challenge and maximizing every kilometer you have. Every kilometer is a jewel you have and you have to use it. That’s why I think my experience is important. But from a driving point of view, the fact that they are young and Heikki being new to the team, it hasn’t changed much really. Fernando was new to the team last year, so it was a little bit the same.

Question for Pedro and Fernando, today, the FIA has launched a campaign against racism. Do you agree that it starts here and now in Barcelona?

PdlR: He’s a two-time World Champion, he should take…

FA: He’s from Barcelona, so…

PdlR: I don’t really know what to say. I was not aware of that and all I can say is that the Spanish people will show to the world how good they are this weekend, and how good historically they’ve been. We’ve never had any problems here before and we will never have (them again). Wait and see. But I was not aware of this campaign or anything to be honest.

FA: Same. I was not aware but this weekend it will be OK and it will always be OK here. Everybody will be able to see that.

After the test here there was a lot of discussion about the coming ban of tire warming blankets. A lot of series don’t have tire-warming blankets and have pit stops. Is that going to be a problem for F1, to have this ban?

My personal point of view is that obviously it’s a matter of safety. Running without tire warmers, tire blankets, obviously increases the chances… or makes the speed difference between the car that comes out of the pit lane and the car that is on a flying lap much greater, so the possibility of an accident is higher. We have seen the bigger accidents over the past few years happen when one car is slower than another, not necessarily a car is stopped on the track. The speed difference is a safety issue for me, that’s my point of view, so that’s what I am saying. I’ve raced all my career without tire warmers but it’s quite different in Formula One, mainly because the compounds or the compound-operating window is very narrow in Formula One. So until they are at a very high temperature, they do not work at all. In other categories you have a much more progressive build-up of temperature and grip, so it’s easier. I find it more difficult here.

So is the GPDA planning to do anything about this?

Well, first of all we are going to talk between ourselves to see what is the majority agreement of the GPDA and then we will act accordingly. We are very relaxed about it, we are not in a hurry. We were waiting until this week, because I tested the tires at Jerez back in early December, I think, and it was extremely dangerous. It was very cold and I nearly put the car into the pit wall, just coming out of the garage. The car didn’t turn and I nearly hit the wall, so it would have been quite embarrassing if I had done so, but I just avoided a stupid accident. And then, when we came here, Bridgestone has made some further steps and now the tires are easier to warm up, so they are working at a lower temperature range. They are still difficult; we were waiting for these tests to happen, so that we could have a meeting between the drivers who had done the tests with the tires and then decide accordingly. We are pretty relaxed, we just know that the FIA will listen to us and we just have to be sure that we all have the same criteria, that’s all.

Considering the information about the 2009 aerodynamic package that you have, do you think it’s a good direction for Formula One? Will it be easier to drive, easier to overtake?

Where we are, or where we think that the regulations should be for next year, or what I am aware of, is that it’s definitely in the right direction. These new regulations come from a thorough study by the technical working group and everyone involved in the FIA and there’s some scientific proof that less downforce and more mechanical grip will improve overtaking opportunities. Still, Formula One will always be Formula One, it’s going to be more difficult than motorbikes – here in Spain there’s always this tendency of comparing both – and we just have to be aware of that. It’s definitely in the right direction. I am very comfortable with that.

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