Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
HRT today announced they have sealed a two-year deal with Pedro de la Rosa who will be driving for the team from January 2012 onwards. De la Rosa is currently McLaren’s test and reserve driver, and the Spanish veteran will now make another step in his 12-year long Formula One career.
“This is a very important step in my sporting career and one of the most meditated ones I’ve taken. I’m at a very good stage in terms of maturity and am prepared to take on this challenge, which motivates me hugely,” de la Rosa said in a statement issued earlier today. The 40-year old de la Rosa joins the team after the Spanish Thesan Capital investment company acquired the Spanish HRT team in June this year.
“When deciding on joining this project, for me there were three decisive factors: my desire to return to the active competition, the fact that HRT is a Spanish team and getting to know the people leading this project, Luis Pérez-Sala being amongst them,” de la Rosa explained.
He hopes to use his experience to improve the team’s results, “I’m here to work hard, with modesty and humility, accepting where we are now but keeping in mind where we want to be in 2 years time. For me, this is the time to put into practice everything that I have learnt over the years at international top level racing teams so that we can grow together.”
HRT Team Principal Colin Kolles confirmed de la Rosa was hired for his expertise, “The team’s objective has always been to reinforce itself in every aspect: economically, technically and in a sporting aspect. Without a doubt, the addition of Pedro de la Rosa for next year will be a fundamental foundation in the development of our project.”
He also stressed HRT wants major improvements for the seasons to come, and thinks de la Rosa will be able to help the team’s efforts to make more progress, “We are a young team that needs to continue progressing and with this incorporation I am convinced that we will do just that. Apart from being a great person he is an experienced driver as his career and prestige in Formula 1 prove. I give him my most sincere welcome. I am sure that he will adapt perfectly and that together we will achieve great things.”
HRT’s Sports Advisor and ex-Formula One driver Luis Pérez-Sala commented, “We have been working very hard for months on next season with the aim of making HRT F1 Team a more stable, competitive and reliable team and, little by little, this hard work is paying off.”
He also thanked de la Rosa and his current employer McLaren for making this deal possible, “Having Pedro on board for this project is great news and with his ability and experience we are sure that we can take an important stride. I would like to thank Pedro for his trust and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for its predisposition to reach a positive agreement for everybody.”
De la Rosa is happy to join the first ever Spanish Formula One team, “I am proud that Spain has an Formula One team and that I have this opportunity to be its driver. I can only show my gratitude towards HRT for having trusted in me for t his. Lastly, I can’t forget to thank McLaren for allowing me to take this step. I have been very happy over the eight seasons I spent with them, growing as a driver and person. Without them I wouldn’t be here today.”
De la Rosa started his Formula One career in 1999 at the Arrows team driving the A20, a car that was notoriously unreliable and de la Rosa retired from 11 of the 16 races. The same problem occurred with the 2000 Arrows A21 and he once again retired form 11 races. In 2001 de la Rosa joined the new Jaguar team. After two years with the British Jaguar team his Formula One career stranded, but he became McLaren’s test and reserve driver in 2005 and 2006.
In 2010 de la Rosa made a return to racing with the Sauber team in 2010, but was replaced by rookie Sergio Perez for the 2011 season. This year de la Rosa replaced Perez during the Canadian Grand Prix after the Mexican’s qualifying crash in Monaco. De la Rosa participated in 87 Grands Prix, and scored 35 World Championship points, and is after Michael Schumacher the second oldest active Formula One driver.