EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PEDRO DE LA ROSA
Following his three day stint at this week's test Jerez , Pedro took some time out on Friday 21 st July to conduct an exclusive interview for the Team McLaren members to update them on his role as Team McLaren Mercedes race driver for the forthcoming Grands Prix.
How did it feel to be back racing in Magny Cours last weekend?
It felt very good to be back and to get the rust away! It was also great to get some points for the team.
How did your family react to you being back in the race seat at Team McLaren Mercedes?
My wife was delighted, she is a big race fan so she was excited from that point of view, but also we have been together since I was in Formula Renault and she knows how hard I have worked to get to this position in the sport. She was very, very happy, I think she was happier than me!
The kids were also really excited, but I don't think they really knew why, they just knew that everyone at home was happy so they were happy also. They watched qualifying, and they were cheering at me, but didn't want to watch the race as they wanted to play!
Was it a busy weekend for you?
Yes, you realise when you jump into the race seat how much more media attention there is on you, how different it is and how many more requirements you have, at Magny Cours I was quite surprised, but I guess that is the normal situation.
After there race I came straight to Jerez for the test and there were spectators for me at the test. Normally they only come down when Alonso is there, but this time there were at the track for me, which was fantastic.
There has been a lot of reaction in Spain , from the spectators and the media. It is a very big thing for Spain to have two Grand Prix drivers, especially one who is the reigning World Champion and the other is in a leading team such as Team McLaren Mercedes. Formula 1 is very big in Spain at the moment and it can only continue to grow from here.
What do you think of the 2006 qualifying system now you have participated in it?
It is very good, I think from a driving point of view it is very demanding because it doesn't allow you to make any mistakes. Also, the quicker you are, the less sets of new Michelins you have to use and so the more you can save for the race.
It is very important to make it to the top ten knockout using the least amount of sets possible, because then you can have brand new sets for the race.
The French Grand Prix was a physically demanding race for all the drivers and team personnel because of the intense heat, were you exhausted after the race or feeling ok?
It was ok for me, there was no issue at all. It was hot yes, but it has been as hot and probably hotter at Jerez . You know the good thing about testing is we do so many kilometres each day that your body is prepared enough to cope with racing.
Looking forward to Hockenheim, what are your expectations for the race?
The expectations are to improve from Magny Cours. We proved that the race pace was quick as I had the third fastest time overall at France and Kimi had the fourth. So we are also focused on being quick during qualifying.
Do you like racing on the Hockenheim circuit?
Hockenheim is a good circuit, I raced there after it had been revised in 2002 but unfortunately didn't make it past the first corner, so I know it a little bit as of course I ran in qualifying and free practice there.
What has been your focus at the test in Jerez this week and has it been a positive session?
We have been doing a lot of work on aero and mechanical modifications this week in Jerez , there are some new parts that I think will suit Hockenheim, but we will have to wait and see. We did tyre selection for Germany , and also Hungary and Turkey with Michelin.
What is your schedule between now and Hockenheim, will you be coming to MTC to work with your race engineers / training?
Over the weekend I will be going to Majorca with Maria and the girls to spend some time relaxing with my family. Then on Tuesday I will be at the McLaren Technology Centre to work with the engineers, before leaving for Germany as we have some promotions to do on Wednesday with Mercedes-Benz. Then of course on Thursday I will go to Hockenheim.
Do you have a summer vacation planned for the August break with your family?
After Hungary I will be going back to Majorca to spend time with my family there. My parents have a house there, and since I was a kid I spent every summer in Majorca as my grandfather is from the island.
There have been a lot of good luck and support messages posted on the forum on McLaren.com, what would you like to say to your fans?
I am very excited as well and all I can say is thank you to all the people that have sent me messages and given me their support. The response has been incredible, and I just want to tell these guys that I will do my best and I hope I can give them some good results, because I can feel that people have been supporting me so much.
Q. Looking back at the French GP, how happy are you?
Pedro de la Rosa: I am very satisfied. It was a good race. I did some overtaking, and I enjoyed it too. The team were happy with the results. In fact, for the car we have, we had some competitive results. During the weekend I did what I was capable of, and the team said they were content with what I did.
I went ahead of people at the pit stops, which means the team did a good job too. That is part of racing. It is not only overtaking on the track in a spectacular manner, it is all about strategy too. And okay, I got stuck behind some slower cars, but again that is part of racing.
Q. Did you enjoy it?
PDLR: Qualifying was very interesting, and very intense. The new format is very entertaining for the drivers but there is no time to think. You just get in the car and the first and second sessions are very similar - you go out and attack.
Then in the last one, you carry more fuel with old tyres before changing quickly to new ones. It is exciting and does not allow any margin for errors for anyone. It just went on non-stop. It was very exciting for the team and the drivers. You have got to be so well prepared to face this session that it is almost like a small race.
Q. Was the French experience different to what it was like for you in Bahrain last year?
PDLR: It was the same really, except that the qualifying was different. We only had one lap to try then. To get it right after a long break was a bit hard. The most difficult thing in Bahrain was probably that I was still new to the team, and I had to go out on the track when it was very, very dirty. I was just cleaning up the track for others. Also there were two qualifying sessions, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, and no error was allowed.
Q. At the test here in Jerez you are preparing for yourself and not just for Kimi Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya any more. Is there any difference in the approach?
PDLR: Yes, it is different. Preparing the basic set-up is the same for Kimi or myself, but now I am thinking about myself only. Whatever Gary (Paffett) does and he does well, I want to know and I want to have that on my car tomorrow too! I want to use it at Hockenheim to give me that little bit more of an advantage.
As a test driver, one has to be very adaptable and I ask a lot more if there is anything interesting so that I can try it. I now have to have the mentality of a race driver, to prepare everything for my race.
Q. So are you being a bit more selfish?
PDLR: Not quite. Kimi is also thinking about his own things, which is normal. I am not a selfish person.
Q. But doesn't it help your chances of winning if you are selfish?
PDLR: Maybe, but that is only when the race weekend begins. However, preparation does not require selfishness. I think we have to share to move forward as a team.
Q.Are you doing more preparation work on pit stops and starts?
PDLR: It is just a matter of practicing. I have done that many times, in every test anyway. There is one thing that a test driver does have to learn though, which is starting off the grid with other cars. That is something big. As for other things, they are more or less the same.
After 2002, the only thing that is difficult for test drivers is how to regulate the flow of the race. I am physically strong, and psychologically too, and I have not encountered any difficulties. Mentally I feel stronger every lap I do.
Q. Do you feel any pressure at all?Are you just thinking about the next race, or are you thinking more about your long-term future?
PDLR: I have to think I can change things, and that I can change things for the better. I am thinking about Hockenheim now and after I have done that I will think about the following race, that is all. It is the best way to go about things. There is no point in thinking about anything else, and there is no meaning to think about things so far ahead.
It will not do me any good. I am just thinking about the present and enjoying it. This is something that is so exceptional – to be able to compete in such a competitive team like McLaren in F1. If there is anything more, then it is a bonus.
Q. Yet you are the one who probably knows the MP4-21 more than Raikkonen and Montoya ever have. It is like a second skin to you, isn't it?
PDLR: That is true. I have done more mileage than anyone in a McLaren. I am really comfortable in the car. I liked the car last year and also this year, it seems to really suit me. I am very familiar with it. In fact, I was nervous a little bit in Magny-Cours until I got in the car. Then I was so relaxed and tranquil, and it was almost like I was back home.
When I left the pit lane for the first time, I felt so, so comfortable. It felt like I was at my own home, because just driving the car is what I have always done. I think my attitude towards Germany and Hungary will be the same. I have some more fresh memories of the track, as I did them as third driver last year, so I am not expecting any difficulties.
Q. Do you feel any pressure at all?
PDLR: The pressure is only from myself, to show what I can do. I will do whatever I can do and I am going to work on myself to get the best out of me – that is it. Anything else doesn't matter. I am very happy. I have been happy with this team since I joined them, and there is no difference now.
This opportunity is just a nice chance, a nice bonus for me. If it comes off well then that is great, but even if it doesn't then it does not matter. I do not feel the need to demonstrate to anyone. I am aware there is a certain pressure coming from the media, but it does not affect me. It does not worry me at all. We will find out all in November and then we will talk.
I am not expecting anything and asking for anything, as there are so many factors that could affect the team, and there are so many things the team does not still know. So it is impossible to think more about the future. I do not know what is going to happen, the team does not know. Only time will tell. Kimi has to think and decide, and the only thing I know is that I have to do the best I can for the team until whenever I am told.
I am not guaranteed to race until the end of the season, but only for the coming races, and they are the ones I am working on. There is an air of calmness about it and no hurry, no worry and no questions.
I am 35 years old and I do not want to put any extra problems on myself. I want to enjoy what I have and I am enjoying it. I think I am driving well, I am happy and I am very calm about it.