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Exclusive Pedro De la Rosa Q&A: Yes, I’ve still got what it takes 21 Jan 2010

Newly-signed BMW Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa with BMW Sauber team principal, Peter Sauber. Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) McLaren Mercedes 2009 Interim Car Formula One Testing, Day Two, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal, Monday 19 January 2009. (L to R): Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) McLaren Third Driver in the first practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 30 October 2009 Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/24 Formula One Testing, Autodromo Algarve, Portimao, Portugal. 20 January 2009 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) McLaren Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009

In a winter break full of surprises, news that veteran McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa has signed to race for BMW Sauber this season has been one of the more unexpected. Although he’s never been too far away from the Formula One paddock, the Spaniard hasn’t had a full-time race drive since Jaguar in 2002. Eight years on and he’s back, paired with 2009’s best-performing debutant, Kamui Kobayashi. On paper it’s a mix of youth and experience tailor made for Formula One racing’s new resource-restricted era. And 38 year-old De la Rosa is confident it should prove just as strong in practice…

Q: Pedro, how do you feel after securing a race seat? Did you ever expect to be a full-time diver again?
Pedro de la Rosa:
I am extremely happy about this, especially because I have been pushing for it for so many years. The reason I became a test driver was because I always wanted to go back racing. My motivation for testing was to keep on believing in myself and believing that this could happen. So I am extremely happy. I have learned a lot from working with a super team like McLaren Mercedes, and if I am here, it is thanks to them. They have helped me grow as a racing driver and I am a lot better now than when I joined the team back in 2003.

Q: Why are you back in the cockpit?
PdlR:
Well, I think the most important thing for a race driver is to feel like a race driver. The fact that I am back now means that I can feel like a race driver again. I can compete against other drivers and I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my system already. And that’s the great thing about motor racing. It allows you to compete and that is why I am so happy to be back with such a competitive and underrated team as the BMW Sauber.

Q: Do you think that you still have what it takes?
PdlR:
I would not be here if I did not think I still had what it takes. I have a huge amount of motivation. I am a hard worker and I think that is the most important thing at this level… to still have the motivation and hunger to attack, and to work everyday as if it was the last day. So yes, I have what it takes. How good will I be? We will see! I believe I can be a lot better than people expect and let’s take it from there. It is a long winter. We have four weeks of great testing ahead and I will gradually get back to speed.

Q: You had been linked to several of the new team joining the 2010 grid, but are you pleased to have signed with an established name?
PdlR:
I think that it is very important to be back racing in Formula One, but it is more important to be back racing with a competitive team like BMW Sauber. I am well prepared, but more importantly, I am with a good and experienced team. So, I am extremely happy about the situation.

Q: How advanced were your negotiations with the other teams?
PdlR:
Well, it has been a long winter for me. A very long winter. Actually, it started during the summer when I was in discussions with several teams. To describe these last few months, I’d say it’s been like a rollercoaster ride. There have been weeks where I was very close to securing a race drive, and other weeks when the whole scenario seemed to collapse. But finally it worked out for me. It has been a very intense few weeks of negotiations.

Q: When did your negotiations with Peter Sauber get underway?
PdlR:
Peter was very straight with me right from the beginning. I spoke with him for the first time when the team still did not have a grid slot. The first thing that Peter told me was that he’d secure a slot first and then call me. Peter always kept his word. He called me every time he had to and kept me informed about the team’s process during the winter months. He was always very straightforward. There were a lot of other good and experienced drivers out there and that I think made Peter’s decision quite difficult.

Q: How long is the contract for?
PdlR:
I cannot talk about my contract because it is a confidential document between the team and myself.

Q: Your biggest asset must be your time at McLaren. How would you define your role at your new team?
PdlR:
I think my experience is a massive asset. You do not gain experience in a few months or in one year. It is over years that you gain experience and that is what I can bring to the team. I want to help my team mate Kamui (Kobayashi) as well because he is quick, young and inexperienced. We need to be a very strong unit to exploit the team’s great potential and I think that I can contribute to achieving that.

Q: You have moved from a team of splendour to one that has had to dramatically downsize over a short period of time. What is your impression of the Hinwil factory?
PdlR:
I am very impressed by the factory, I am hugely impressed by the personnel and the wind tunnel. The wind tunnel I have seen here is really something. It is state of the art and a fantastic tool for the engineers to do a very good job.

Q: As you’ve not yet driven the car, it’ll be tricky to gauge, but how do you think the team will do this season?
PdlR:
Well, let’s be realistic. I need to spend more time with the team and with the people. I need to learn more about the 2010 car, and we’ll need to wait until we start testing in February to answer this question. This is my first day at work! We need to set goals that are achievable. However, I would be disappointed if we were not in a position to fight for points on a regular basis.