Ferrari Sign Former HRT Driver De La Rosa for the 2013 Season
Pedro De La Rosa may forever be referred to as the man that never quite made it.
In a world where money can and will buy race seats, the Spaniard showed glimpses of potential at low running teams but ultimately never made that step up to a top team.
The danger at smaller teams is that unless you bulldoze your way to the front of the pack you will never be regarded as nothing more than an average driver.
Occasionally there are exceptions. Fernando Alonso at Minardi and Sebastien Vettel at Toro Rosso showed what a talented driver in a back-running team could do. Their subsequent exploits and combined five drivers titles speak for themselves.
De La Rosa's Formula 1 career has been a journey of stops and starts. For a period of time he shone at the now defunct Arrows team. On a couple of occasions he managed to thrust the car well into points-scoring positions only for unreliability to cost him dearly.
You have to admire the man's dedication to the sport, especially after he spent a lengthy eight years as test driver for the McLaren team. Occasionally he was called upon to be a covering substitute. The aim in these situations was to provide damage limitation, by scoring as many points as possible before the permanent and more accomplished first-team driver returned.
At the flailing HRT outfit De La Rosa miraculously gained a first-team drive in 2012. This acted as his very own swansong, as although he remained rooted to the back of the pack, he at least got to show supporters of the sport that he could still perform at the highest level.
Over the course of the season the 41-year-old outperformed his HRT counterpart, Narain Karthikeyan. In every race where both drivers finished, De La Rosa finished a place or two ahead of his team mate.
While this may not have seemed a marvellous achievement when looking at how uninspiring the Indian driver has been in the sport, when you consider De La Rosa's mature age, you can respect his efforts.
The writing has since been on the wall for HRT. Their inability to find a buyer was the final nail in the coffin for a team who could not catch up with the rest of the pack.
De La Rosa and Karthikeyan were subsequently left without drives for 2013. Their names were not mentioned as potentials for any of the remaining seats at teams like Force India. This would lead you to expect a permanent exit from Formula 1.
Yet De La Rosa has now been asked by Ferrari to take on a support role within their team. The Spaniard has been named as an additional development driver who will work more with the team's simulators.
In a sport that often forgets the men behind the scenes, De La Rosa should be commended for agreeing to take on such a minor back office role. It will not be the same as stepping into the actual race car, but it is an important job that De La Rosa will have the commitment and experience to excel in.
It would now be a miracle if he were to ever sustain a first-team drive. I would even be surprised to see him replace an injured or banned driver if the opportunity arose.
But at least those within the sport, and in particular at Ferrari, can acknowledge and appreciate what he can bring to a team. It is for this reason that a driver who often out-performed his car but was never given that next step up, should be considered as an unsung hero of the sport.
He is what Formula 1 should be all about; the want and desire to succeed and partake in a role that evokes passion and sustained loyalty.
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