After securing a two-year deal with HRT, Pedro de la Rosa is eager to get back in the car and go racing with the Spanish squad, in what will be his return to grand prix action as full-time race driver.
He talked to AUTOSPORT about his move to HRT, the season ahead and more.
Q. You've been part of the team for a few months now. Have you been able to make your influence felt?
Pedro de la Rosa: No, the truth is that I haven't been able to do much. My contribution has been minimal, but it will increase. At the moment, Luis has taken the reigns of the team together with Saul and I'm helping with what I can but I have to admit that my contribution has been minimal so far.
Q. Have you noticed a change of attitude since Perez-Sala took over from Colin Kolles?
PdlR: What has surprised me the most about Luis is that he is very patient. He knows how to listen to everybody before making a decision, but once he makes it, he doesn't change his mind. We are understanding each other very well and to me it's very easy to work with him, especially because he's a hard worker and he's honest.
It's hard to tell what has changed because I never really worked with Kolles. All I can say is that Luis is spending most of his team restructuring the team and so you can say that things are changing all the time. Things are moving, we are not standing still.
Q. How are the preparations for the season going? Do you know when you are going to test the new car?
PdlR: The plan is to test with the old car at Jerez, and then run the new car in the Barcelona test on February 21. That's the plan. It's been said there are delays, but I don't see it that way. I think the whole process of producing the car started very late and the team is making a superhuman effort to have the new car on track on February 21. I'm very calm. From the day I signed I knew that this was more or less the plan. It hasn't been modified.
The plan is to have a pre-season that is as long as possible. It's always best to do as many kilometres as possible. But it's not a critical situation because it's going according to plan. Things get more intense when those plans have to change because the parts are late or because there are problems, but it's not the case. I think that having two tests before Australia we will be fine. There are bigger teams who have also opted to do this too.
Q. If things work to plan, what targets can you set for the start of the season? Will you be happy just to qualify or you want more?
PdlR: Our realistic goal is to improve, first of all. Improve race by race. What we need to make clear is that a victory for us is not winning a race, but simply improve in every race. And for that we need to be the best new team to be in the top ten [in the championship].
It's a very ambitious target and it will be very, very hard because there are teams like Caterham who have a clear advantage over us. But we are here to set goals for ourselves and to fight for them. But the important thing, on the short term, is to grow up in an organised way and that will make the car faster race by race.
Q. Do you have a preference for your team-mate? Have you had a say in who the team chooses?
PdlR: No, I have no idea who could be or who is going to be. From day one I've always said that I don't care. What I do want is that it is a driver who can work as a team and who is not obsessed with beating his team-mate as his only goal.
Our goal is to get the team to improve and for that we need to think about what's best for the team instead of starting an intra-team battle. That's all I want, to have a good team-mate to push the team forward. If he's experienced or young, that I leave it up to Luis.
Q. Are you concerned that the financial backing he needs to secure the seat will influence too much and you will end up with someone with no experience?
PdlR: The names I've heard, I have a big respect for them. I have no problems with any of them. But I don't know the personalities behind those names. I know they are fast drivers, but that's not the only important thing, but also that he thinks about the team and how to help. That's what I want.
Q. Will your driving career be over after this HRT stint?
PdlR: At the moment I'm not thinking about any of that. I'm 100 per cent focused on competing again and to prepare physically and to be fast again. What is very clear is that I don't know how to do anything other than being a driver.
It's obvious that if one day I wake up in the morning and I don't feel the motivation and have probably lost a few tenths, then I will probably do something else, but always inside the world of motorsport because it's my passion and it's the only thing I know how to do, we have to be realistic.
But I have no idea. There are no secret plans. I think you have to go step by step and right now I'm focused on competing at the top level. I'm here to push. I'm not here to make up the numbers, so I'm going to give it all. And after that we'll see.
Q. What do you think of Raikkonen's return? Do you think he will be the same as before?
PdlR: Kimi is a great driver with whom I've worked with and for a lot. And I've always said that of all the drivers I've worked with, he's probably the most brilliant. If Lotus can build a competitive car, Kimi could surprise this year.