After his recruitment by Sauber was greeted with some cynicism and surprise in certain corners of the grand prix paddock, Santander has confirmed that it will be personally supporting Pedro de la Rosa in F1 2010.
Three years on from his last race at the highest level – as a substitute for Juan-Pablo Montoya at McLaren-Mercedes – and approaching 40 years of age, de la Rosa was perhaps not the most obvious choice to partner star 2009 debutant Kamui Kobayashi at the former BMW operation this season, especially with the likes of Nick Heidfeld, Giancarlo Fisichella and Christian Klien similarly on the market.
Fisichella was in actual fact reputed to be in pole position to seal the deal, but the Italian admitted that he was unable to match the financial backing being touted by his Spanish rival – and now it has become more apparent why.
“Pedro is a friend and a very intelligent person who impressed us very much in our three years together,” revealed Santander's Juan-Manuel Cendoya, referring to the Spanish bank's relationship with McLaren, where de la Rosa has been employed as a test driver and occasional substitute since 2003. “We are going to support him personally, but we are not going to be at Sauber with any of our brands.”
The Spanish banking group became a title sponsor of McLaren in 2007 following the arrival at Woking of double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, and in common with the 21-time grand prix-winner it will switch its allegiance to Ferrari in 2010. It owns British high street names Abbey, Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester.