Tuesday April 24th, 2001
Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa has played down the expectations on the eve of his return to Formula One racing with the Jaguar team at his home Grand Prix in Spain next weekend.
De la Rosa, who drove for the Arrows team last season with some very promising performances, joined Jaguar as test driver for the 2001 season, with a contract which would allow him to race in 2002. However, following Luciano Burti's departure from the team last week, de la Rosa will find himself on a Formula One grid a lot sooner than he expected.
Despite some good tests with the team's R2, and making his debut at a track he knows very well being very close to his home in Cardedeu, the 28-year old Catalan was quick to say he doesn't expect anything from this first Grand Prix with the Milton Keynes-based outfit.
"I just hope that people don't expect anything from me," de la Rosa said. "I know this is unrealistic to expect, but I have nothing in mind than to give 100%. I want to finish the weekend knowing that I did the best possible job for both Jaguar Racing and myself.
"This team is currently in transition and it will take time before we are challenging the front-runners. Our aim this season is to be competitive and use this as a baseline for developing next year's car. Expectations will always be high in circumstances like this, but my debut for Jaguar Racing must be taken in the context of the team's capabilities at this stage of our development."
Following a very disappointing pre-season, when he lost his drive with Arrows only weeks before the start of the 2001 campaign, de la Rosa admitted he is glad to be back to racing, and added he must raise his game now he is not a test driver anymore.
"You must step up another gear, but I still think one part of you remains as a test driver because of the development responsibility," he added. "You never stop developing the car. On the other hand, you now have to race 21 cars every two weeks and that requires extra aggression and focus. You must consistently prove your competitiveness and that means pushing very hard at race level.
"I haven't raced competitively since last year and I can't wait to line up on that grid this weekend. It certainly beats testing at a wet and windy Silverstone!"
The Spanish driver was shown around the Milton Keynes factory last week to acquaint himself with Irvine and his new mechanics and admitted that meeting so near to the race makes the weekend's event harder.
De la Rosa said: "I met my mechanics for the first time last Friday and you know what? - this is the first time in my career that I have arrived at a race meeting and not known the team around me.
"It makes things a little harder, of course, but this whole team is like a new and complex machine. The building blocks for the future are being laid down now and I'm confident in exploiting the potential we have here."