Pedro De La Rosa: Awaiting The Return Of an Underdog
Being regarded as a midfield and average driver can at times be taxing on the continuation of a career that you seek to gain.
For some it spells the end of an era in Formula 1 that affords little chance of a return.
Recent drivers such as Anthony Davidson and Nick Heidfeld have felt the cold hand of rejection, due to ongoing perceived mediocrity. Subsequently they found themselves minus drives for further seasons.
This year though sees the return of one such driver, and a driver who many still know little about.
Pedro De La Rosa will take to the 2010 season in the BMW Sauber team with new rookie talent Kumai Kobayashi to accompany his return.
The Spanish driver first emerged into the sport in 1999, gaining a superb debut points finish in his first race down under.
Sadly for him however his two years at Arrows yielded little else, with just two other points finishes that would come to him.
This could have been a more substantial tally if certain events hadn't gone his way.
What many do forget here is that he was in the running for a podium in Austria in 2000, before a gearbox failure halted a momentously consistent drive behind the dominating Mclaren’s. He then followed this up by a beautiful qualifying performance in Germany which led to his third sixth place finish and the third positioned finish of his young career.
His move to Jaguar in the next season devastatingly didn't help his cause though. Although the Spaniard was never deemed a lacklustre or appalling driver, he just didn't have any performances that warranted a high level of praise.
At the end of his fourth season in the sport he had succeeded in achieving only six world championship points.
And so he fell into a position that most un-influential drivers fall into. He became a test driver for Mclaren in 2003 and would only compete in one race until the end of 2005 ; replacing a sidelined Montoya in the 2005 Bahrani Grand Prix.
This was to be a turning point in his career as a confident display, coupled with a fifth placed finish allowed him a chance to compete on a regular basis in the following season, when a dissatisfied Montoya left for Nascar.
In eight Grand Prix he managed to pick up points in five of the races, and featured heavily in the Hungarian Grand Prix where he claimed his best result to date by coming home in second to Jenson Button.
People began to take note of the previously uninspiring yet polished driver. Whispers were uttered of his similarities to drivers such as Alexander Wurz who were also wasted by Formula 1 and its teams.
If it had not been for the speculation surrounding the wonder boy Lewis Hamilton, De La Rosa probably would have continued his promising comeback with a permanent seat in 2007. But alas it was not to be and he faded back into his test driver status.
What the conclusion of the 2006 season showed however was that here was a driver capable of causing upset, and capable of subverting the form book.
Although not as glorious a driver as the likes of Alonso and Hamilton, De La Rosa had proved with some credible performances at Arrows and at Mclaren, that he was a talented driver who could force more than the average amount out of his car.
He just needed a continuous chance to prove himself before it was too late. Before he reached the age where he could not compete at the required level.
The 2010 season is now his chance. It may indeed be his final chance.
It is his opportunity to shine in a way that we have seen glimpses of before. It is his opportunity to bow out of what could have been an illustrious career, with a season or two of consistent positive performances that question those who would not bestow upon him a first team drive.
When compared to the likes of Liuzzi and Piquet Jr who received more than their fair share of the spotlight, it is nice to see a driver vastly more able given a new chance to reaffirm his credentials.
Having a ballshy team mate like Kobayashi will indeed be a challenge. Pedro will need to keep his eyes on the prize if he is to overcome his quick paced team rival.
As it stands they look very equal as the first practice sessions got underway. It will now remain to be seen if this equality will extend further into qualifying and race day sessions.
Yet as long as De La Rosa can increase his points tally, with podiums being an added mouth watering possibility, then we will know that he was and is a driver who whilst not the best, is able to achieve a more accomplished portrayal of ability than we were lead to believe.
This forgotten underdog is therefore back in the game, and ready to show that the lack of acquisition for first team drives was a mistake for those unwilling to take him on.
His Sauber machine looked powerful in pre-season testing. So the thirty-nine year old behind the wheel is ready to seize the bull by the horns and once again drive for his life.
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