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Pedro de la Rosa Q&A: BMW Sauber may surprise in Monaco 12 May 2010

Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber C29 suffers a puncture. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber C29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 18 April 2010

Everybody has been talking about the difficulties involved in Michael Schumacher’s comeback, forgetting that Pedro de la Rosa had been away for the same period of time. Added to that, De la Rosa is at a team busy adjusting to life as an independent again, with a car that’s had more than its fair share of reliability woes. Now, though, the Spaniard is convinced the bad times are over. With the input of new technical director James Key, performance is on an upward curve and BMW Sauber might even surprise in Monte Carlo this weekend, as De la Rosa explained exclusively to Formula1.com…

Q: Pedro, the road to success seems to be a very rocky one. Did you expect it to be that difficult?
Pedro de la Rosa:
Yes, more or less. I never expected that my return would be easy. It has been a difficult start because we’ve finished only one race out of five so far and the reason for that is hard to swallow. But Formula One is never easy and I would be happy to do this interview five more races into the season because I am sure that the results will be much better then.

Q: From the outside, there seems to be two elements to the difficulties. The car is not as technically mature as one might have expected from a BMW-developed machine, but then there’s the human factor. Adjust to racing again seems a bit tricky - even for Michael Schumacher. When do you expect to come to terms with these two factors?
Well, I think that on a performance level we made a big step forward in Barcelona, so that is a reason to be optimistic about the next few races. On the reliability I must say that we’ve been extremely unlucky for one reason or the other. When I say that, I have in mind that we did 5000 kilometres in pre-season testing without any issues whatsoever. So that brings us to the fact that all problems have materialized during the races - and that really smells like bad fortune. I don’t like to talk about misfortune in motor racing because this sounds like an excuse. But we have to see it as a way of understanding that we can do a lot better by finishing races.

Q: Peter Sauber said some time ago that he underestimated the time that it would take you to get back into ‘racing mode’. Where would you say you face the biggest problems?
I must say from my point of view it has not taken more time then I expected. My last race was also the last race of Michael Schumacher - in Brazil 2006 - and when people talk about how difficult it is for Michael they are forgetting that it is the same for me - and I am not a seven time world champion. For me it has somehow been very quick that I’ve readapted. I have to admit that the first few tests were difficult, but since then I have been performing at a good level. All we need now is reliability to show the true race pace that we have.

Q: When looking at your performance you always get close to Q3, but then things go awry in the race. How frustrating is that?
Last week in Barcelona it was difficult, because in Q1 and Q2 I was in the top ten, and then I missed out. You have to understand that the car was capable of Q3, and that made me happy because had I had a perfect lap I would have made it to Q3. That showed that we have the car, and that lets you concentrate on your own driving.

Q: You bring so much experience with you from McLaren, a world championship-winning team. Do you feel you BMW Sauber are making the most of your input?
I think that we have a very good team and we are very strong, very united. Now with James Key as our new technical director I feel that we will be making big steps. I don’t want to say that this will happen due to my experience. I am only a small part of this big team. We have to give credit to all the engineers and mechanics and all the people working in the wind tunnel. And James Key is our leader now. I would say that my experience is important, but not critical. It is a little part of a big structure. That is what people have to understand. My biggest asset for sure is that I have been involved with world championship-winning cars and that is one of the main reasons I am at Sauber. I am thankful to McLaren for having taught me so much - and now I have to use all that. Speaking about all that is all very nice, but now I am here, we have a good technical team behind us, and we have good resources. I have a lot of experience - so now let’s make it work! There is no excuse of not having the budget, or stuff like that. We do have a good package.

Q: James Key was one of the creators of Force India’s VJM03, a car that’s been doing well. Do you already feel a difference since he joined the team in April?
I think that James is bringing a lot of common sense, a lot of understanding and a lot of experience and he has impressed me very much in a very few weeks. But we have to give him time and I don’t want to overload him with expectations. We have to let him do his work. He is now in the process of analyzing what are our strengths and what are our weaknesses and I feel very good about all that. He is the right guy for the team.

Q: When you analyze the situation where do you see the most room for improvement? Car and team alike?
I think the car is very different from what I used to drive. Extremely different in its characteristics, mechanically and aerodynamically and that is something that I didn’t need to mention because James spotted it straight away. The team is working now in these two areas, but our main target is to improve the aerodynamics - a lot! I see that now they are targeting the right weaknesses of the car - and that is very important. The good thing about us now is that we know exactly what our weaknesses are. I have been in many teams where they never knew what their weaknesses were - they’d be shooting in every direction. Now with James we are shooting exactly at the right spot - and this is why I feel confident.

Q: You must have had expectations of where this season should take you. Have you already lowered those expectations?
Oh yes. I have a perfect plan about the next few races. I am confident. I was not happy in Barcelona - in fact I was extremely disappointed, also because it was my home Grand Prix - and I must say that I had a very bad night on Sunday when I could hardly sleep. But then I woke up thinking: ‘Well, you are in a good team - and that is what you have been pushing for - and we still can do it’. It’s not the end of the world. Okay, we had a bad race but the car is good now and I am sure that there will be good races.

Q: There’s nothing like the Monaco Grand Prix. What do you hope to achieve on Sunday?
The most important thing for me is to do as many kilometres as possible on Thursday. I haven’t raced here since 2002, so for me it is about re-acclimatising to the track - a difficult track! I know that if we do a good job on Thursday and in qualifying we will be in the points on Sunday. We could be better than people would expect from us here.