De la Rosa at Sauber and the consequences
McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa’s F1 comeback has been confirmed today with the announcement that Sauber have signed him for this season. The Spaniard, who will turn 39 in February, will bring 71 GP starts and endless laps of Barcelona in experience with him to help the team and their first signing, Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi. No doubt sponsorship was a factor too, though.
De la Rosa has been linked with a return to racing for many months, having first been considered a likely signing for the Campos team. But instead the Spanish team need money and have thus gone down the pay driver route, and with Pedro not bringing much backing, it seemed like his hopes of a comeback were finished. But then the Sauber rumours began. It’s a strange choice on the face of it – bar a freak 2nd place finish at Hungary whilst deputising for the dismissed Juan Pablo Montoya at McLaren in 2006, his results have hardly been outstanding in F1. He has a reputation for not being the quickest driver out there. But he is solid and consistent, and his wealth of experience will be of enormous benefit to the team and to Kobayashi. He’s a nice guy too, as reflected in his leadership of the GPDA despite not even being a race driver.
As for what this means for the F1 grid, it leaves 5 seats remaining. It looks like Giancarlo Fisichella’s F1 racing career is over, as a return to his 2004 team was his only real shot. It had seemingly turned into a straight shootout between the 2 wise old heads, with Nick Heidfeld out of the running presumably for financial reasons. Nick too seems to be in the lurch at the moment, with his only chance being at Renault alongside his old BMW Sauber team mate Kubica. However, even there it seems backing is required, and that seat may end up going to a Sato, Tung or Petrov. The latter, last year’s runner-up in GP2, has also been heavily linked with Campos due to his large amount of Russian backing, and is thought to be up against another GP2 veteran, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, for the seat alongside Bruno Senna. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso are still expected to be fielding Jaime Alguersuari next year despite a long period of silence – if Alguersuari is confirmed, it will mean 3 Spaniards on the grid for the first time.
The final pair of seats are at US F1, and they too seem to be going for paying drivers. Jose Maria Lopez is expected to be confirmed in one seat shortly, possibly on Thursday according to the Argentinean press, whilst the latest name to be linked in connection to a drive there is former Honda and Super Aguri test driver James Rossiter. But it could be anyone…