Pedro de la Rosa has rejoined McLaren as the team’s official test and reserve driver.
He displaces Gary Paffett to a test and development role that will see the Brit continue to be busy in the simulator.
Although a return for de la Rosa was rumoured some weeks ago in the Spanish media it seemed unlikely given than Paffett was well established in the third driver role, and that de la Rosa – who recently turned 40 – had an ongoing programme with Pirelli.
Presumably the Pirelli job is now set to fade away given that the FIA has confirmed that the teams can conduct tyre development testing on Grands Prix weekends, and thus there is less need for its own programme. At one stage Pirelli was even talking about running the Toyota test car on Grand Prix Fridays.
McLaren will also clearly be able to use Pedro’s extensive Pirelli knowledge in the coming weeks, and that may be one of the main reasons for getting him back on board. He also has more value for McLaren in marketing terms than Paffett, if only because the latter has not raced in F1.
De la Rosa said: “Of all the teams I’ve driven for in Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is the one that really feels like home. So I’m very excited about returning to the team to help push the development of the MP4-26.
“Lewis and Jenson already have an extremely positive and productive working relationship – so, building on and adding to their existing rapport, I’m aiming to do everything I can to help them get even more from our car, our engineers and our technical resources back at the McLaren Technology Centre.”
Martin Whitmarsh added: “I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say that I’m delighted that Pedro has chosen to return to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. He rejoins us with even greater experience, and his motivation and attention to detail remain as sharp as ever.
“His recruitment adds considerable strength in depth to our driver line-up. With two world champion race drivers in Lewis and Jenson, and two of the world’s most experienced and capable development drivers in Pedro and Gary, we feel we have a quartet of talent that is absolutely second-to-none.
“Meanwhile, we wish Gary a very successful season in the DTM series with Mercedes-Benz – and are delighted that, away from the world’s racetracks, he’ll continue to give us the benefit of his considerable technical and developmental abilities.”