Pedro de la Rosa’s test for Force India F1 last week sparked speculations about his possible move to Vijay Mallya’s team. Current Force India drivers do not seem to care too much but that is not stopping the media. As this is a hot topic in India, Kaushal asked me for a post on Pedro de la Rosa and his career. I tought why not, and why not to make it an opening post of a series on Formula 1 drivers who never really made it in F1.
Following succesful career in F3 Japan (Champion 1995) and Formula F3000 Nippon (Champion 1997) Pedro de la Rosa made the step up to Formula 1 in 1998 as a test driver for Jordan. A year later he moved to Arrows as a proper race driver. He drove his first Formula 1 race in March 1999 in Australia and scored a point on his race debut for finishing 6th. In 2000 he added two more 6th place finishes to his record – in Hockenheim and Nurburgring and finished the season 16th with 2 points to his name (those day only top 6 scored points).
Then he made the switch to Jaguar Racing where he replaced Luciano Burti after San Marino GP and paired up with Eddie Irvine. Great things were expected from the Jaguar F1 team but the team never delivered. The 2 years that Pedro de la Rosa can be considered the most successful for team. But while Eddie Irvine made it twice to the podium (Monaco 2001 and Italy 2002) and scored total of 14 points all Pedro de la Rosa managed were 3 points in 2001 season (6th in Canada, 5th in Italy). He was dropped after the season. He was picked up by McLaren and his Formula 1 test driver career begun …
In the next three years his only F1 racing opportunity came in 2005 when Juan Pablo Montoya famously injured his shoulder “playing tennis”. Montoya missed 2 races and McLaren test drivers took over – Alex Wurz in San Marino (3rd), Pedro de la Rosa in Bahrain. De la Rosa finished the race 5th but also set the fastest lap of the race.
His next opportunity came after relationship between Montoya and the team broke beyond repair. Montoya announced mid season his planned move to NASCAR and the team dropped him after United States Grand Prix. From Hockenheim on it was Pedro de la Rosa racing for McLaren alongside Kimi Raikkonen. He scored 19 points in 8 races, the best result being his 2nd place in the wet Hungarian Grand Prix. He did not shine but can’t say he was totally disappointing. But his performances were not enough to keep him in the race seat for the next season. Fernando Alonso was to join the team and was very unlikely that McLaren would race with 2 Spanish drivers. They decided to give the race seat to a rookie Lewis Hamilton who by then was yet to even test Formula 1 car. And we all know what followed.
This was not the end of all hopes for Pedro de la Rosa though. Prodrive project won the FIA tender and was to become then the 12th Formula 1 team from 2008 season. It was no secret that the idea behind the team was to run customer cars supplied by McLaren. Naturally the McLaren drivers Gary Paffet and Pedro de la Rosa were expected to fill up the newly available race seats. But the complicated situation surrounding the whole customer cars issue resulted in scrapping te Prodrive F1 project and was testing again for de la Rosa in 2008.
What hasn’t worked for McLaren with Prodrive seems to be now working in slightly amended form with Force India. One of the first obvious signs of their cooperation was de la Rosa’s 2 days test with the Force India F1. But whether this will result in an F1 drive for the veteran Spanish driver only future will tell …
Pedro de la Rosa Formula 1 career statistics:
Grands Prix started: 71
Best result: 11th in Drivers Championship (2006)
Best race result: 2nd (2006 Hungarian GP)
Podium places: 1 (2nd 2006 Hungarian GP)
Fastest laps: 1 (2005 Bahrain GP)
Career points: 29
1998 – Jordan, Test driver
1999 – Arrows, 17th, 1 point
2000 – Arrows F1 Team, 16th, 2 points
2001 – Jaguar Racing, 16th, 3 points
2002 – Jaguar Racing, 21st, 0 points
2003 – McLaren test driver
2004 – McLaren test driver
2005 – McLaren – 1 race, 20th, 4 points (1 fastest lap), test driver McLaren
2006 – McLaren, 11th, 19 points (1 podium)
2007 – McLaren test driver
2008 – McLaren test driver, Force India F1 winter test
Photos: Force India F1, F1Wolf.com