Legions of motorsport fans around the world emitted a collective ‘eh?!’ this afternoon after HRT announced that they had signed Spanish veteran Pedro de la Rosa on a two-year deal.
The Spanish team, who were acquired in July by Thesan Capital and are now looking to the future with renewed vigour, confirmed that the current McLaren reserve driver will race for them in 2012.
“This is a very important step in my sporting career and one of the most meditated ones I've taken,” said De la Rosa. “I'm at a very good stage in terms of maturity and am prepared to take on this challenge, which motivates me hugely.
“When deciding on joining this project, for me there were three decisive factors: my desire to return to the active competition, the fact that HRT is a Spanish team and getting to know the people leading this project, Luis PÃ©rez-Sala being amongst them. I'm here to work hard, with modesty and humility, accepting where we are now but keeping in mind where we want to be in 2 years time.
“For me, this is the time to put into practice everything that I have learnt over the years at international top level racing teams so that we can grow together. I am proud that Spain has an F1 team and that I have this opportunity to be its driver. I can only show my gratitude towards HRT for having trusted in me for this.
“Lastly, I can't forget to thank McLaren for allowing me to take this step. I have been very happy over the eight seasons I spent with them, growing as a driver and person. Without them I wouldn't be here today”.
HRT team principal Colin Kolles welcomed De la Rosa to the team, citing the importance of the experience that will be brought to his young team.
“The team's objective has always been to reinforce itself in every aspect: economically, technically and in a sporting aspect,” Kolles began. “Without a doubt, the addition of Pedro de la Rosa for next year will be a fundamental foundation in the development of our project. We are a young team that needs to continue progressing and with this incorporation I am convinced that we will do just that. Apart from being a great person he is an experienced driver as his career and prestige in Formula 1 prove.
“I give him my most sincere welcome. I am sure that he will adapt perfectly and that together we will achieve great things”.
De la Rosa, who will turn 41 in February, last raced at the Canadian Grand Prix for Sauber in June to replace Sergio Perez, who was feeling the affects of his heavy crash during qualifying at Monaco a fortnight earlier. The Spaniard had a stint at Sauber in 2010, but was dropped for the final five races in favour of Nick Heidfeld.
In 86 grand prix starts, which have also included races for Arrows, Jaguar Racing and McLaren, the driver from Barcelona has notched up 35 points and one podium finish – second place in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, the race that saw Jenson Button take his first ever victory.