Q&A de la Rosa gets his break After years of teams favoring youth over experience, mature drivers are back in fashion for 2010, as limits on testing boosts the value of the older generation. Forty one year-old Michael Schumacher is leading the way at Mercedes, while BMW Sauber have signed their very own ‘racing cougar’ in 38 year-old Pedro de la Rosa. Having served for seven years as McLaren’s reserve driver, De la Rosa can’t wait to get racing - especially now he’s enjoyed a positive first ride in the C29…
Q: Pedro, you haven’t been in a Formula One car for almost a year. Did it all come flooding back?
Pedro de la Rosa: Yeah, and it came sooner than I’d expected! During the first few laps I was a bit nervous thinking about how long it will take to feel right in the car, but in a surprisingly short time everything was back to normal.
Q: Whenever you’ve been behind the wheel in the past it was in a car that was a potential winner, so you must have an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of your 2010 car, even though you only went for a brief ride…
PdlR: As you said it was just a brief ride but it assured me that I’ve made the right decision to make a comeback with this great team. The car has been well born. It was quite easy for me to drive, which is a very good sign when you step into a car for the first time. How fast we are, in comparison to our competitors, the future will show.
Q: After announcing their planned withdrawal midway through 2009, BMW said that they didn’t plan to stop the development of the team’s 2010 car. Can you confirm that this is a fully-developed car?
PdlR: From what I have experienced, the car is completely new and I am very impressed by the finished details. The folks back in Hinwil have done a fantastic job. It is a full new-spec car - there have been no compromises!
Q: Even though everybody says the times don’t mean anything, you must be happy that you clocked the second-fastest time on Monday?
PdlR: The times don’t mean anything compared to other teams because you don’t know what the others are doing, but you can compare it against yourself, against your expectations and against past cars. You compare basically against your database and that was the reason we were satisfied yesterday. From what the team knows about last year’s car, when they came here in 2009, this ride was very positive.
Q: Can you say anything about the fuel loads you were running? Everybody’s being cagey...
PdlR: Obviously we were trying different fuel loads - like everybody. Our focus was to get used to very heavy fuel loads because this is the unknown. When you go over 100 kilos the car becomes very heavy and inert and that is something that no one is used to, so we were exploring in that direction, trying to understand what it means to drive such a car and how it affects the tires.
Q: Last year balancing the weight of the KERS system was a big issue at BMW Sauber. How is the car’s balance now with the big tank?
PdlR: We haven’t found any issues in that direction yet, but the minimum weight of the car is not an issue anymore because you don’t have KERS, and therefore you can play with the weight distribution as much as you can. On the other hand, as a driver, you have to learn to handle a very heavy car and we have to learn to understand what changes are needed to get the car as quick as possible in a heavy configuration.
Q: After so many years in Formula One racing are you still dreaming of glory?
PdlR: My objective really is to have fun. I am in the last years of my career and I want to have fun by driving a Formula One car. What I never wanted was to retire without having raced again - that was a very important consideration for me. Of course, once you are in you want to do well. But I am not here to show off. Aside from the fun factor, I want to do a good job for the team and be proud of myself.
Q: Formula One drivers are getting younger all the time. What makes you want to compete with the youngsters?
PdlR: The simple truth is that we don’t care who is there. Young, old, beautiful, ugly - it doesn’t matter. We just want to compete! That is the fundamental motivation behind every driver. Age nowadays is not really relevant. We have had years where youth was the flavor of the moment and probably we are now heading into a period where experience makes the difference. This really depends on the regulations and how much testing you have. As long as you take care of your physical fitness, age is rather unimportant.
Q: When asked about Michael Schumacher’s return former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore said him being 41 isn’t the issue, but him being out of a car for three years is…
PdlR: Well, I think that it will take some time for all of us who are making a comeback after a few years. But I don’t see that fact as a big hurdle. It will probably take one or two months to get back up to speed and gain a full knowledge of what you are driving, but that’s about it. It’s all about giving yourself a little bit more time.
Q: When you learned that Peter Sauber was interested to sign you, what was your first emotion?
PdlR: First and foremost I was really happy that Peter was considering me. But then there was some competition from other good and experienced drivers, and there was a stage when I thought that I would have no chance. But then the interest came back and here I am! I have to say that it was very rewarding initially knowing that Peter was considering me. And I somehow knew that an experienced driver would make sense in this team, in combination with a very young and quick driver.
Q: So experience is what is demanded from you?
PdlR: Experience yes - the experiences I have gathered in the past with other teams. That is my biggest asset and that makes me very thankful to McLaren and the seven years I was able to spend with them. Now, with my decision to race again, I think I have taken the right decision to capitalize on those years. (F1 PR)