Pedro de la Rosa has made his first appearance as Ferrari's new test and development driver, attending a sponsor event before turning his attention to driving the Scuderia's 2013 challenger in testing.
The Spaniard, for so long a McLaren devotee between stints racing in the top flight, was snapped up by Ferrari once it became clear that the HRT team would not be returning in 2013, and will provide a seasoned head behind Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa as the Prancing Horse attempts to go one better than it did last year and take at least one world crown from Red Bull.
“I am proud and very happy, mainly because Ferrari is more than just an F1 team,” de la Rosa explained after joining Luca Baldisserri at the 'Beca Santander Jovenes Promesas' in his native Spain, “I'm starting a new phase of my life.
“For a driver, it's important to work with the big teams, especially because you can learn from the best engineers and professionals in this sport. I am proud that Ferrari had faith in me, especially as it means I will be able to help a Spanish champion, in the shape of Fernando Alonso.”
It's less than two weeks since the announcement confirming him in scarlet for 2013, but de la Rosa already admits that the pressure to succeed is very evident at Maranello.
“It's logical, because it's a team that is used to winning,” the Catalan told the team's official website, “In F1, whether it comes from below or from elsewhere, pressure is total, but definitely, I immediately saw that, at Ferrari, winning is the only thing that matters.
“Every time I go to Maranello, there is something to learn and it's a continual experience. Even if I cannot say much, because I have only known Ferrari for a short time, I can say that, at least once in your life, you have to go to Maranello. I'm not talking about the factory, but rather the city, as it's there that you start to understand the difference between a team like Ferrari and all the others - you already feel as though you are pretty much within the company. Every restaurant, bar or person on the street has something red - it's really impressive!”
de la Rosa, who revealed in a separate interview that then Ferrari boss Jean Todt actually turned his first approach to be test driver back in 2003, is scheduled to make his debut behind the wheel of the team's new car a week on Friday (8 February) at Jerez, and is eager to get started.
“I've seen the new car in the factory, as it is being prepared for the first test, and I am very happy to be able to test it,” he revealed, “Honestly, I had not expected that, but it's a unique opportunity to begin to understand how the car works and how I can help with the work in the simulator.”
The 41-year old, who would become the oldest driver in the field should he be required, has been confirmed as Ferrari's first port of call should either Alonso or Massa be unable to race. That also suggests that development squad member Jules Bianchi has moved closer to being confirmed as the second driver at Force India for 2013.