F1 returnee Pedro de la Rosa has rubbished reports he is taking a step backwards by joining HRT for 2012.
The 40-year-old will become F1's second oldest full-time driver next season after inking a two-year deal last month with the Spanish team. However despite his age and despite turning his back on McLaren, where he was the third/reserve driver, he is adamant he has made the right decision.
“Not at all,” he replied in an interview with Spanish radio station, COPE
, when asked if it is a backward move. “We have to leave all those things aside and start working, which is what I've always really like.
“It is a Spanish project and that to me says it all. It's an honest project. It's a project in which we are not going to be selling smoke. It's a Spanish F1 team.
“We are last at the moment [in the pecking order], but there is a plan for the next two years to make progress.”
Despite that though, he is under no illusions about the herculean task that lies ahead and he knows there 'isn't going to be a revolution in Australia'.
“It's a huge challenge,” he continued. “I could have stayed at McLaren, but I wanted to do this a lot more.
“It is much harder but it is also much more interesting. It really is 'David versus Goliath', but it is also a reason to be proud to be fighting against teams which are much more powerful, with a much bigger budget and who have been building F1 cars for 50 years. That is why we are starting from scratch.
“We have to start with modesty, knowing where we stand, with an ambition to grow and to improve. We are not here to make up the numbers. The important thing is to grow and to make progress. There isn't going to be a revolution in Australia, but we are going to improve step-by-step.”
Meanwhile, in a separate but related development, it has been reported by Germany's Speed Week
magazine that a switch to Renault engines could be on the cards for HRT in 2012.
Renault incidentally has not ruled out the possibility of providing an engine to a fifth team next season.
“Four teams, that's fine,” the French carmaker's chief operating officer, Carlos Tavares said last month. “Five? Why not?'”
As for who will partner de la Rosa in 2012, a number of names are said to be in the frame, with Finnish newspaper Turun Sanobat
tipping Vitaly Petrov, who of course is now on the look-out for a drive after Lotus Renault GP ended its contract with the Russian prematurely. GP2 ace Giedo van der Garde has also been linked with HRT's second seat and occupies the position of bookies favourite given the funds the son-in-law of Dutch billionaire Marcel Boekhoorn has behind him.
by Simon Evans