Tough Road Ahead For De La Rosa
April 27, 2001 | 6:00 P.M. EST
Sunday’s Grand Prix of Spain will be his first start with Jaguar Racing since last week’s driver shakeup that sent Luciano Burti to Prost. And, as if expectations weren’t high as it is, the Barcelona native will be competing on his home circuit.
Should be a piece of cake for de la Rosa, though, as long as people know what to expect.
"I can't believe that my debut race for Jaguar Racing coincides with my home grand prix," he said. "I just hope that people don't expect anything from me. I know this is unrealistic to expect but I have nothing in mind than to give 100 percent."
Most people figure de la Rosa knows the circuit like the back of his hand, but, he said, that isn’t the case at all. De la Rosa was seventh fastest in Friday’s open practice.
"People assume that because I'm from Barcelona, I know the track better than anybody. I wish this were true," de la Rosa said. "I know this track as well as any other F-1 driver. I recently tested the Jaguar R2 at the Circuit de Catalunya and I don't expect us to be any higher on the grid this weekend than has been the case so far this season."
For de la Rosa, his promotion to race driver ends a hectic year that started with him being fired from Arrows, where he spent the past two seasons. The 30-year-old driver then verbally agreed to take on a role as test driver for Prost but jumped ship to Jaguar just days later when he was promised a chance to drive in 2002. Burti, who drove for Jaguar in the first four races, left to replace Gaston Mazzacane at Prost.
"I want to finish the weekend knowing that I did the best possible job for both Jaguar Racing and myself," de la Rosa said. "This team is currently in transition and it will take time before we are challenging the front-runners. Our aim this season is to be competitive and use this as a baseline for developing next year's car."
Jaguar CEO Bobby Rahal reiterated de la Rosa’s notion that this year is being used to map out a future run at a championship.
"This is a transitional year," Rahal said. "We’re building to be competitive in the future, and Pedro’s signing is an example of that. You have to work at getting success, and anyone who has succeeded will understand that. There are many things happening behind the scenes at Jaguar Racing."
Considering the circumstances, though, de la Rosa said he shouldn’t expect too much for Sunday’s race.
"I met my mechanics for the first time last Friday and you know what, this is the first time in my career that I have arrived at a race meeting and not known the team around me," he said. "It makes things a little harder."