Pedro de la Rosa has played down recent reports that he is close to returning to McLaren in 2011 as reserve driver.

The 39-year-old held the post at the famous British team for many years before securing his return to the grid with Sauber in 2010.

He was ousted mid-season, however, and his subsequent contract as Pirelli's main tyre tester has just expired -- even though it is believed possible he could nonetheless stay with the Italian marque in 2011.

But reports in Spain recently said de la Rosa is on the verge of returning to McLaren for this season.

According to the EFE news agency, he said on Monday that while he is "hoping" to have a role in F1 this year, it will be "very difficult" to put a deal in place to be on the grid in March.

And de la Rosa added: "To be with McLaren looks difficult, but there are other alternatives.

"Today I have my mobile phone, because I need to know what I will be doing this year, but I'm going to have to wait a little longer," he said.