After seven years as a test driver, Pedro de la Rosa is back to racing with the BMW Sauber team, who unveiled its 2010 challenger on Sunday.
The Spanish driver ahead of his racing return.
Q. What does it feel like to be a racing driver in F1 again?
Pedro de la Rosa: For me it's, obviously, I would say, my third comeback. First was when I started, second was with McLaren and now I'm back, so I'm extremely, extremely excited about this opportunity, not just because it's a comeback, but also because it's with a great team.
I think it comes to me at a stage of my career where I'm mature enough to appreciate it and to exploit it. Because it is clear to me that if I have managed to get this race drive it is because of the experience I have managed to accumulate with McLaren, so I'm very grateful to them that this has been possible. And apart from that I only promise work, motivation and that's it.
Q. What is your goal for the season?
PdlR: That's a very difficult question. To set ourselves goals without having even driven the car, I don't know where I am, I don't know how much time I will need to to get the rust away. Hopefully a few laps only. And also we don't know where our car will be at the moment, how much we will develop the car during the year and where the competitors are. So, it's too early. I would personally be very disappointed if we don't finish in the points consistently.
Q. Pedro, you had a great job at McLaren. How difficult was it to turn your back on McLaren to make a racing comeback?
PdlR: It was very clear for me from the beginning that I had to go back to racing, otherwise I would never go back racing, and especially with all the regulation changes. The fact that I was being a test driver who didn't drive the car very much during the year was very tough mentally for me, because I was not doing what I was born to. It was clear that I had to go back to racing. That was easy.
After that, I have always been very honest with McLaren and McLaren has been very honest with me. I always kept them informed of what was the situation and that this could happen. That's life. I'm very grateful for what they have done for me and the reality is that I'm a more complete driver now and that's thanks to them. But we had to go back racing, we had to. With the current regulations there is no point in being a test driver anymore.
Q. The team has lost the support of a major manufacturer and its struggling to find sponsors. Do you think it's realistic to expect to finish in the points regularly?
PdlR: Well, obviously we don't know how much our rate of development will be. We don't even know what the car speed is at the moment, but it's just a gut feeling. What I feel when I look at the car, when I work with the people and looking at the package. So let's see if I'm right or wrong. Maybe we exceed the expectations, maybe we don't. But the critical thing will be how we develop the car, and that's something that is not for me to really control or be able to say much.
Q. How much do you think you can bring to this team with your experience?
PdlR: I don't know, really. I need to work with them first to really say how much I can help them. I believe I can help them. Also I developed during the years a very critical approach in the sense that I'm very good at what's wrong with the car. I'm not good at solving problems, but I'm good at detecting them, which is what a test driver has to do.
Q. Pedro, as a test driver you had a lot of time to devote to the GPDA. Do you still see yourself playing an active role now?
PdlR: That's a very good question. I don't know yet. I haven't taken a decision. We need to talk between the GPDA members. Obviously for me it's going to be a lot more difficult to keep being the chairman, because I cannot dedicate as much time as I used to, so that's something that I need to talk to the directors and members about.
My personal view is that we need someone more dedicated than a race driver. When I was a test driver it was easy, now it's a lot more complicated, so I will talk with them first.
Q. Do you think the new format, without refueling, will favor experienced drivers?
PdlR: I think that it won't change much. You have to adapt, no matter how experienced you are or not. You have to adapt to save fuel, to save tires and to drive the car with very different fuel loads. Having said that, experience will be important in how you manage all this, but at the end of the day I think the adaptable drivers will be competitive, like it has always been.
Q. Pedro, Luca Badoer showed the problems a test driver can have when he's had no mileage in a racing environment. Did what happened to him give you any second thoughts?
PdlR: I never thought about that. I've done it before. I've been thrown into the car midseason. OK, with more testing, but it doesn't change much. I did it in 2005 and 2006, and I learned not to complain when you are given an opportunity. I never thought about it.
Q. How much of your McLaren knowledge can you pass on to Sauber?
PdlR: You know how this business works. I have to jump into the car, feel the car, know what the issues are with the car and try to solve them, applying my experience. As any engineer you have to use the past experience to use it at your advantage. This is life. It's not something that is going to transform any of us. It's the day to day work that changes.
Q. Pedro, how many laps will you need until you know if the car is good or not?
PdlR: You never know how quick the car is or not until you make it to Q1 in Bahrain. That's a typical answer but it's the reality. What I can detect as a driver is where are the biggest issues of the car or what the car needs to go faster. After that, it's just up to what the competitors' level is. You have to adjust against your competitors how good or bad you are.