2010, may be seen by some as a new start, four new teams coming in, a lot of rookie drivers as well. For me, it is the year of returns. Michael Schumacher back after three years out, Sauber coming back after four years under the disguise of BMW. Mercedes, returning with a team for the first time since 1955.
Earlier today, the list of returnees continued. Pedro de la Rosa was confirmed as the new driver at Sauber, pipping Giancarlo Fisichella to the drive. The move completes the line up at Sauber, Kamui Kobayashi in the other seat.
Like Michael Schumacher, de la Rosa hasn’t been involved in a race for three years. Unlike Schumacher, he has only been on the podium once in seventy-two races. He’s been in an actual race just nine times since 2002.
That worries me, his lack of any actual racing experience in the last decade. Despite being 38 years old, and seemingly being in Formula 1 forever, he has only had four full years of F1 experience, and those being in an Arrows and a Jaguar car. 6 points were scored in those four seasons, just 6. More worryingly, in those 62 races from 1999-2002, 38 ended up in retirement. More than half the time, de la Rosa didn’t even reach the chequered flag.
But, I’ll be fine, these stats are from the Pedro de la Rosa before he joined McLaren as a reserve driver. In 9 races spreading from a sole appearance at the Bahrain GP in 2005 (Juan Pablo Montoya was injured due to a tennis injury) and completing the 2006 season (Montoya left for NASCAR), with Kimi Raikkonen in the other McLaren car for all nine races, he was beaten by him 6-3. Two retirements (at least they weren’t his fault) and a grand total of 23 points, just under 6 times the amount he had got in four years in a clearly inferior car.
His best finish was in Hungary, back in 2006. A second place result behind the then first time winner in Jenson Button. The last three years have seen him as a reserve driver at McLaren, but never been needed to be called up.
So, with an unspectacular history in Formula 1, especially with a sparse appearance record, why has Peter Sauber gone with Pedro de la Rosa?
Well, Mr Sauber says this in the press relese:
“We as a team stand to gain from his experience, and the same goes for young Kamui. The combination of a seasoned racer and an up-and-coming young driver has repeatedly proved a very fruitful one. I don’t expect either of them to disappoint in 2010. Of course it is also crucial that we provide them with a decent car”
Experience is certainly something de la Rosa has. 2010 will be the 11th year in Formula 1 for the Spanish driver. To be alongside Kamui Kobayashi, the young pretender, someone with experience was going to be needed alongside him. That inevitably left three likely drivers to be his team mate, Nick Heidfeld, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pedro de la Rosa.
Heidfeld must have been the most obvious choice, having been with the team all the way through the BMW years as well as between 2001-2003. That is a grand total 7 years at one form of Sauber, in ten seasons, that shows his loyalty. He has the knowledge of all the team at Hinwil.
But the one problem that Nick Heidfeld had, no sponsorship money. That is what Fisichella and de la Rosa had. For Fisi, it was sponsorship money in a different sense. As Sauber were using Ferrari engines for 2010, it was believed that the engine costs would be cut if Fisichella was to join Sauber, being a Ferrari reserve driver.
It seemed almost certain that it was going to Fisichella last night, apparently leaving the Ferrari camp in the Italian Dolomites early to head off to Hinwil. So it did come as a massive surprise when I looked at the BBC Sport website and saw it was Pedro de la Rosa partnering alongside Kobayashi.
As strange as it sounds, I am oddly looking forward towards the upcoming season especially as a Sauber fan. Kamui Kobyashi, as it pains me to say it, is going to be a very exciting driver this year. Pedro de la Rosa will be an unknown quantity, my head says he is going to be crap, my heart says he will be like Alex Wurz when he returned for Williams in 2007 (I think that is the aim for the Spaniad)
So roll on 31st January, Sauber are going to unveil the 2010 challenger, my word, I can’t wait for Bahrain now.
Not entirely sure still how de la Rosa has made me excited again.