Nothing should be read into Pedro de la Rosa's appearance in one of the two Force India cars running in this week's Formula One group test at the Circuit de Catalunya, according to the team.
The Spaniard took over the second VJM01 from regular FIF1 tester Vitantonio Liuzzi for day two of the Barcelona session, prompting speculation that Force India's new technical partnership with McLaren could see the Woking giant have a hand in selecting its drivers for 2009. Vijay Mallya's operation will switch from its current Ferrari power to use a complete McLaren-Mercedes drivetrain package in order to get what it feels is a more advanced KERS system for 2009, but has admitted that it would be foolish not to listen to McLaren's experience on all
Mallya has made repeated claims that his 2008 line-up of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil would be carried over to 2009, but de la Rosa's appearance alongside the German in Barcelona on Tuesday only served to underline the suspicion that he and/or DTM runner-up Paul di Resta could be parachuted into the squad for next season.
"Pedro is an old friend of the team," a team spokesman told Reuters
, pointing out that de la Rosa had previously carried out development duties for FIF1 originator Jordan in 1998, "It's just an opportunity for a fresh face to put a new perspective on an old car."
The Spaniard was unable to push his VJM01 off the bottom of the timesheets despite completing 86 laps of his home circuit, but did end the day within tenths of those ahead of him. Sutil rounded out the top ten, lapping 1.5secs faster than his new 'team-mate', while McLaren used Gary Paffett - seemingly forgotten in the media's rush to promote di Resta to the ranks of F1 driver - to carry out its testing duties.
Fisichella, meanwhile, is slated to join the test today [Wednesday], as Force India brings a premature end to its 2008 activities. Unable to use the McLaren-Mercedes package until January, it is not thought likely to join the rest of the field in tests planned between now and Christmas.