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De la Rosa - most excited man in Magny-Cours 14 Jul 2006

Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, French Grand Prix, Preparations, Magny-Cours, France, 13 July 2006

Step forward Pedro de la Rosa, who gets his first race since he stood in for Juan Pablo Montoya in Bahrain last year, and will now replace the departed Colombian at McLaren.

“The first hint I had came on Monday night from the team really, just the first hint that things could change, and I was surprised,” he admitted yesterday. “And then Tuesday morning I was on my way to the team, as we normally do Tuesday and Wednesdays, before a Grand Prix, to do all the simulation work with the engineers, and I was just driving to the team and at nine thirty I got the phone call that said I would be driving here. Obviously, it was a surprise and I’ve been quite excited since then though the rest of the days since then have been normal. Tuesday I was in the factory and Wednesday I was at home trying to handle the situation as calmly as I could. There was a lot of expectation from Spanish media and Spanish supporters, which I really appreciated, and I say a very honest thank-you. Today, I woke up at five o’clock and it has been no different.”

De la Rosa was at pains to stress that he will be following the programme selected by the team. “I think that everyone has their own aims and my objective is really to score as many points for the team. I don’t really care about how many other Spaniards are on the grid and what they are doing. I am extremely happy to be here, I was not expecting it, but as a test driver you always have to be ready for it. It comes at a good time in my career. I know the car well, I have done plenty of kilometres and I’m fit for it. I’m very happy and I hope that I got rid of the rust in Bahrain, in the run-off areas there. I got rid of some of my rust there, and I’m now ready for it.

“I was here last year as the third driver which is a major advantage, really, because as soon as I go on to the track everything will be fresh. It is a major opportunity for me and let’s make sure I don’t make any mistakes. Next week is a different week. We go testing in Jerez and then comes Hockenheim and we will see. I don’t take it as a last chance because in Bahrain last year I took it like that was my last chance and it wasn’t - here I am. So I just want to enjoy myself and drive to the limit of the car as I have done in testing when I have always been genuinely quick, finish the race, get some points and that’s it really. I don’t want to set goals or aims to this weekend. Just carry on as I have been lately and that’s it.”

De la Rosa’s last full season was 2002 when he drove for Jaguar, having previously been associated with Jordan and Arrows. He joined McLaren as test driver in 2003.

“When Jaguar sacked me, I phoned all the teams that I thought were best, about testing. McLaren was the first one. I looked into Ferrari, who had two test drivers. I looked at McLaren, who only had Alex (Wurz). I spoke with Martin Whitmarsh and made the offer of my services, on the basis: ‘Ferrari has two test drivers and you only have one.’ I had to be clever, to look where I might land a drive. There were no chances to race at all, and I had to keep testing to keep the feeling alive. The response from McLaren was quite positive.

“For me, it has been incredibly good for various reasons. First of all, because now I can compare myself to Kimi (Raikkonen) and Juan Pablo, okay? And I know exactly where I am and I am very proud of where I am. I think I have developed as a driver massively, thanks to the help of McLaren. And I have realised what you need to win. And what a waste of time it is to race for some teams out there.”