Thursday April 19th, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
Pedro de la Rosa said he was elated to be returning to the Formula One grid but wary of making his race debut for Jaguar at his home grand prix in Barcelona next week.
"It's a very special day because obviously it's my return to being a racing driver and doing what I really wanted to do," said the Spaniard at a freezing Silverstone test session on Thursday.
De la Rosa replaced Brazilian Luciano Burti at Jaguar in the first driver reshuffle of the season and will race for the team from the coming Spanish Grand Prix. Burti moved to Prost, ousting that team's under-performing Argentine Gaston Mazzacane.
"It's good but I would have preferred to start not at my home grand prix because there will be a lot of expectation and also I think it will be better for me just to keep it quieter," declared the Spaniard. "But anyway, it's good. These things when they happen, they happen."
De la Rosa competed for Arrows for the last two seasons, scoring a point on his debut in Australia in 1999 and out-qualifying his Dutch team mate Jos Verstappen for most of last year. But he was replaced shortly before the start of the season by Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi at Arrows as his main sponsor announced they were ending their deal with the team.
The Spaniard was swiftly offered a job as Prost test driver, which he performed briefly before Jaguar seized him for the same role with a promise of a drive in 2002. Jaguar had already told Burti that he would make way for de la Rosa in 2002 and then speeded up matters on Thursday in a deal agreed with Prost, who have also yet to score a point this season.
De la Rosa said he went to the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola last weekend and it had been very hard to watch. "Once you have been in a racing seat, being a test driver is not what you really want," he said.
De la Rosa's return, and Burti's move to Prost, should give a new and interesting insight into their team mates' performances. Mazzacane was regularly some two seconds off the pace of team mate Jean Alesi in qualifying while Burti has been out-qualified in all four races by Jaguar's Eddie Irvine.
The Brazilian had also faced speculation early in the season that he would be replaced by de la Rosa for last weekend's San Marino Grand Prix in Imola.
The Spaniard said the next races, with electronic traction control returning in Barcelona, would show how good the Jaguar really was and what it's potential might be.
Asked whether he expected to be pushing Irvine, he replied diplomatically that he would concentrate mainly on himself. "It's very bad for a racing driver just to look at one's team mate. I think the biggest pressure comes from myself.
But he recognised he had to be on the pace. "You have to be close to or quicker than your teammate. Otherwise your life is short in Formula One. It will always be like this. You have to push each other to achieve the best.
"I think we are different but nevertheless compatible. I know Eddie and he knows me. I never had any problem with my teammates. I have a very good sense of humour and I know he has also. I think we won't have any problems."
De la Rosa said the team believed the car was reliable but needed a bit more speed to score points. "I think wherever we are in Barcelona and the next races is not where we want to be because we are aiming higher. But it will come."
The Spaniard also praised Burti as someone who had a very good technical understanding of the car. "I think he has a great opportunity with the Prost team and we just followed different paths.
"I didn't expect this. Really I just came here and did my job as the team told me and today I have been told and am extremely happy. I just can't wait for Barcelona, basically."