As has been in the news since this morning, Spanish Formula 1 driver Pedro de la Rosa has been dropped from the Sauber team following Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza – he has been replaced by Nick Heidfeld. It has been a difficult year for the veteran – the 39-year-old has only had one points score in a season blighted by poor reliability and poor pace, while team mate Kamui Kobayashi has achieved several top ten finishes.
But what next for de la Rosa? At 39, he is hardly a spring chicken in terms of Formula 1 and as the 2011 season draws ever closer, seats are getting more difficult to come by. Should he obtain a drive, it may cost him a lot in sponsorship; realistically with this sudden dropping, Formula 1 may have seen the last of Pedro.
It has been a patchy road from his humble beginnings at Arrows, where he scored a hard fought point on his début at the Australian Grand Prix to Jaguar Racing – a team at which virtually every driver struggled for results. The end of the 2002 season saw both de la Rosa and Jaguar team mate Eddie Irvine without drives – with no other seats available, de la Rosa joined McLaren as a test driver and Irvine retired from the sport.
For several years, de la Rosa sat on the sidelines with the British team, conducting the occasional test; although he did replace the injured Juan-Pablo Montoya for the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2005.
De la Rosa returned to the McLaren seat one year later, when he replaced the NASCAR bound Montoya following the race at Indianapolis. During this time, the Spaniard picked up the only podium of his career, finishing 2nd to Jenson Button’s Honda at the Hungarian Grand Prix, however at the end of the year, he returned to his testing duties.
In this time, testing was banned, leaving many reserve drivers with little to do; however with less on track time, drivers have been utilising simulators on a more regular basis. De la Rosa was heavily criticised during 2007 for taking part in McLaren’s spy scandal that saw the team fined $100 million. After two further years working on simulators, de la Rosa joined Sauber.
Any potential team owners will most likely look at results and drive before they choose someone for their seat and at times, de la Rosa has come across somewhat lost and lacking enthusiasm on television.
This was certainly not the way anyone wants to lose their seat, especially if it ends their career. Let’s hope he can find success – I wish him all the best in the future.