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Q&A with McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa 08 May 2007

Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Test Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 5 April 2007

He may not be expecting to race, but this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix will still be a busy one for McLaren’s reserve driver, Pedro de la Rosa. The Spaniard discusses his thoughts regarding his home event…

Q: What are your expectations for the McLaren team at the Spanish Grand Prix?
Pedro de la Rosa:
Our expectation is to keep the Malaysia spirit! We have to aim high. I think we can this year and therefore we should.

Q: How do you feel the MP4-22 will perform during the Grand Prix at the Barcelona circuit?
PD:
Well I’m not sure, I hope it will work here well, but we will have to wait and see. We know the track and traditionally we have always been very quick, but I cannot be sure about it until we are racing. We’ve been working very hard, for me Barcelona is the most demanding circuit for the car, including the engine, aerodynamics and the mechanical side. If the car is quick here, it will be quick elsewhere. We were at Malaysia, which is another track which is similar to Barcelona.

Q: What is the most important characteristic for a car to have to be quick at the Circuit de Catalunya?
PD:
The Circuit de Catalunya has changed a lot since the introduction of the chicane. The two high-speed corners at the end of the lap don’t exist anymore, this means that you won’t need such a strong front end as you normally need in Barcelona. The track is like Malaysia in many ways, you still need a very strong package. It is not hard on the brakes, but it is hard on everything else. You need a strong engine, engine power at the Circuit de Catalunya is particularly important. You have to have a lot of downforce, an efficient car; it is just the whole package. Barcelona is a great test track, because if your car is quick there it is normally quick everywhere.

Q: This is the home race for you and Fernando Alonso, how does it feel to be back in Spain with the McLaren team leading both the constructors’ and drivers’ championships?
PD:
It feels good. For me I am not racing, so I just hope that Fernando and Lewis (Hamilton) continue the trend of the first few races.

Q: The Circuit de Catalunya is your home track, what are your favourite memories of the circuit?
PD:
Unfortunately I haven’t had great memories at this track. Since 1999 I’ve raced in several Grands Prix there and I have only finished once. However, my favourite memory would be when in qualifying in 2000 with Arrows when I took ninth on the grid. It was quite remarkable to be in the top ten with a car that was not one of the most competitive. I have only raced once at the track outside of Formula One, in Formula Renault, that was at the debut race at the venue in 1991. After that I went to Japan and England to race, so whilst I know the circuit well as we have tested there many times, I have not raced there much.

Q: Can you outline the changes that have been made to the track, and how do you feel about them?
PD:
The biggest change is the new chicane and this will be the first time we are racing with it. Basically we have lost the two high-speed corners that lead you into the main straight. I think it is positive, because it means you will be able to get close to the guy in front and if you have a quicker car you can actually overtake into turn one. One of the characteristics of the Circuit de Catalunya has always been that the two high speed corners before the main straight are so difficult to get close to the guy in front, so you can’t overtake. It is safer first of all, and then, just as importantly, it is better for the spectators. It will give them the chance to see some overtaking, when at the Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying has been traditionally so important, because your starting position tended to be your finishing position. It will be much more open now.

Q: Have the Spanish fans continued to get behind and support the new McLaren team since the launch?
PD:
It is difficult for me to judge. When we went to Valencia the launch was spectacular. The response from the public towards the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, towards Fernando, Lewis, Gary (Paffett) and myself was incredible. I haven’t actually been back to Spain since as I have been travelling with the team! It will be interesting for me to see what the support will be like now in Barcelona. In Valencia it was just incredible and I hope that feeling has grown across Spain.

Q: What do you think it means to the Spanish nation to have two home drivers in the team?
PD:
I think Spain feels very proud of firstly Fernando and also me. I am seen as someone who is helping their hero and our team to win. They understand my role in the team, and it is a very good response from the people.

Q: What will be your role at the 2007 Spanish Grand Prix?
PD:
The first reason why I am there is of course to act as reserve driver, so if there are any problems for Fernando or Lewis I can jump into one of the cars. That is the main reason. Then I am in the meetings with Bridgestone and the engineering debriefs, mainly listening, sometimes there will be questions relating to my experience with the car. Also, I will be able to unload the drivers of some of the media work, which is good as they are the guys who are going to sit in the car on Sunday and it is good to be helpful.