Pedro de la Rosa criticises McLaren driver equality

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Some people (myself not included) are sceptical about whether Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen are going to get equal treatment at McLaren this year.

So it was interesting to see Pedro de la Rosa not only confirm that they will get the same treatment but say he disagrees with the approach, in an interview for a Spanish newspaper:

In my view, a formula one team must have a leader and everyone should work for him, as happens in other sports such as cycling. That is the modern concept that should govern any team.

This statement clearly goes against what Ron Dennis practices, which Lewis Hamilton recently explained his support for. It makes me wonder about de la Rosa’s future at McLaren.

When I first heard that Fernando Alonso and de la Rosa had known about and discussed the confidential Ferrari information that led to McLaren’s exclusion from last year’s constructors’ championship, I wondered if either driver would keep their jobs. Alonso has since left the team, de la Rosa has stayed.

He’s been with the team as test driver since 2003 and although he’s made several race starts for them it appears he’s never been seriously considered for a long-term drive.

Following Heikki Kovalainen’s appointment to the race team de la Rosa said he’d like to return to racing again:

After what happened, my chances of racing for McLaren are small. Looking ahead, yes, I am thinking about some other series. I am eager to return to racing.

He’s also said he misses having Alonso in the team:

I personally miss him. Fernando is always a great contributor to a team; it is better to have him with you than to have him somewhere else.

Given this, and speculation that he and Hamilton don’t get on, could de la Rosa be about to leave McLaren?

Oh, and I don’t agree with him. I think some of the best champions have been those who beat world championship-class team mates in equal machinery. Ron Dennis wants world championship-class drivers in his cars, which is why de la Rosa will never get a long term race seat at McLaren.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “Pedro de la Rosa criticises McLaren driver equality”

  1. He has more or less confirmed that the drivers had equal treatment all of last season.

  2. I think the main question here is the definition of what a #1/#2-driver really is. McLaren and Ron have “arranged” many, many wins if the #2 was in the lead in order to let the #1 through, what is equal about that? Last season it wouldn’t have worked as neither driver was ready to step down to #2, as it was the case with Senna/Prost earlier on. But in Senna, Häkkinen and Räikkönen McLaren has had a string of clear #1 drivers who were helped by their respective #2 teammates. Equal machinery doesn’t mean equality, regardless of what Pedro “I have to try and keep my job” dela Rosa says. Every time McLaren adjuested the strategy to let the #1 through that had nothing to do with equality. McLaren’s so-called driver equality is nothing but a myth…

  3. I don’t understand the argument that de la Rosa is trying to keep his job by criticising Ron Dennis’s policy?

  4. Well, maybe the McLaren PR guys are getting a little savvy after the debacle year 2007 by trying to make Pedro sound genuine rather than just saying how great and equal McLaren is?

  5. Plus, poor Pedro is treading a fine line between trying to lift McLaren’s image in Spain while at the same time not attacking Fernando “God of Spain” Alonso. If he would just back McLaren, and by that say that Alonso was wrong, he would be lynched in Spain. So he has to remain Alonso’s best mate while trying to help McLaren in Spain. Not easy, but done well in this piece I think.

  6. I’m surprised De La Rosa is still employed by McLaren, first with the spy scandal and speaking out against his employer’s ethos. Surely someone who so openly disagrees with a company’s mission statement shouldn’t be working for them – I think I would’ve quit if I were De La Rosa.

  7. Keith,

    What he is saying is that, probably Pedro is going to lose his job.. Hence this statement.


  8. Oliver, Pedro hasn’t more or less confirmed equality policy. He said: “when i replaced Montoya, i had got the same than Kimi”. I also remember when he was interwied then, and he always said that his job would be help Raikkonen.

    Maybe you don’t like it, but Pedro has been saying the same #1-#2 discourse for years, not only with the Alonso-Hamilton affair.

  9. Do you have any of those other quotes from de la Rosa?

  10. Here you have the whole interview, but i guess you don’t speak spanish. If i have some time i’ll try to send you a translation

  11. The policy of equality of McLaren is well known for all the world, the own FIA had to send a watcher the last year to learn about that.

    ” Ron Dennis wants world championship-class drivers in his cars, which is why de la Rosa will never get a long term race seat at McLaren.”

    If true, Ron Dennis has not been very competent to get a world championship for this year, Ferrari and Renault yes.
    Ron Dennis had a world championship-class driver the last year, a double champion called to be triple champion, Dennis ruined that, Dennis obtained nothing for his team, Dennis was unable to retain a double champion even with a signed contract, all a example of management of a F1 team.

  12. Quite frankly I’m surprised PDR is still at McLaren, given his role in the spying scandal. Of course he misses Alonso, he doesn’t have anyone to discuss Ferrari’s setup data with.

  13. andyduncan, when you talk about the role of de la Rosa in the spying scandal, i guess you mean the role of de la Rosa in the Mclaren’s concealing of the spying issue.

    I mean Alonso and PDR could be guilty of cooperating with FIA in the investigation, but they didn’t steal info to Ferrari, they didn’t design parts of the MP4-22 using that info, they didn’t pay money to Ferraris engineers to betray their old team and bring stolen info to Mclaren, they didn’t lie and hide information about the spying affair to the FIA.

    It’s funny that you are shocked because two drivers change emails about Ferrari data, but you don’t be shocked because engineers used that info to design parts of the car, or because Dennis lied in the FIA council.

  14. Since the only difference the FIA equality watcher made was to force Alonso onto a brake pad he didn’t like (and thus the “equality” inspector generated inequality), I remain sceptical of the accusations of intentional McLaren unfairness. In any case, unlike the engineers’ intentional use of Ferrari information (which was never proved, only alleged), Pedro was proven to have a lot of implicating e-mails in his possessions – well, sort of proved. (The case was handled so sloppily that the only thing completely proven was the FIA’s inability to handle such cases, but that’s another story).

    Pedro’s anti-equality stance won’t endear him to traditional McLaren values, but with Hamilton being allowed to assert himself as team leader apparently unimpeded by the team itself, perhaps that’s changing.

  15. Alianora La Canta: use of Ferrari information (which was never proved????????????

    Have you read the FIA report of December 5th?

    There is a lot of quotes like this:

    107.1.- the [redacted-confidencal] sytem appears to have been reinvestigated and developed by Mclaren as a result of a receipt of confidential Ferrari information. Despite senior Mclaren management imposing a hiatus on development at the time the Coughlan activities were revealed, Mclaren now intend to use [redacted-confidencal]on the 2008 car.

    It’s not proved enough for you? Mclaren using of Ferrris info in 2007 and 2008 car it’s completely proved. The only thing unknown is the FIA-Mclaren agreement which allows compite Mclaren in 2008 without further punishment.

  16. Do you expect PDLR to say to spanish media that Alonso got equal treatment but he screwed it up? It was a politically correct reply. To whom he spoke had a great influence on what he said and i think Mclaren and Ron are smart enough to understand that. If he tells the same thing to the English media… thats a different thing altogether.

  17. If de la Rosa is to be believed, he explained McLaren equality some time ago. When he raced at Bahrain, three years ago because of Montoya’s injury (playing tennis?) he explained that he was told not to attack Kimi at the start, and because of that he had a busier race in the traffic…. That’s the real equality policy behind the curtains at the McLaren’s soap opera.

  18. I think drivers equality it’s important at the beginning of the season, simply because you don’t know which of them will better fit the car. But at the end of the season, if you’re fighting for the Campionship with just one of your drivers, you would be crazy if you don’t get priorities.

  19. The FIA report of December 5th was simply an attempt to extract as much pain from McLaren to satisfy the people who had been disappointed by the total hash the FIA itself made of the previous proceedings (I’m not just referring to the decision – though the evidence in the transcripts doesn’t support the decision – I mean the way the investigation and hearings were conducted). Since the FIA had said prior to the investigation that it was taking “ideas” (a concept it never bothered to define) rather than more concrete things as proof, every single team “could be interpreted as” cheating because F1 teams attract great minds and great minds think alike (whether they correspond improperly or not). Since the entire background of the investigation was dodgy and the standard of proof the FIA had declared was known to be extremely low, none of the FIA’s own conclusions can be taken seriously.

    If Pedro was looking to secure his place in McLaren the way McLaren used to operate, I would have expected him to say he was treated equally but suffered from “bad luck” or something equally vague. However, in a McLaren that appears to be priming itself for open favouritism, Pedro’s comments as published make total sense.

    Personally, I prefer drivers to be treated equally unless there’s a crunch situation where not favouring one driver over another is likely to lead to seriously bad consequences (usually this would mean a championship battle, but I could imagine a handful of other circumstances – such as a race where overtaking attempts would likely result in a double DNF – where driver favouritism is reasonable).

  20. All drivers on all teams are treated equally, given the same opportunity to win, until strategy comes into play. One of the drivers will receive a preferred pit window or qualifying strategy, it’s only logical.

    And if any of you think Kimi “won” at Brazil last year, you need to realize he sacrificed a home victory to allow Kimi the chance at the title. And was rewarded with a contract extension and a chance at more wins this year.

    Ron has always managed to excessively defend issues needlessly, just get on with the racing and shut up!

  21. “And if any of you think Kimi “won” at Brazil last year, you need to realize he sacrificed a home victory to allow Kimi the chance at the title. And was rewarded with a contract extension and a chance at more wins this year.”

    Correction: Please insert “Massa” in lieu of “he” in the above.

  22. for me, thats one thing that taints schumacher’s acheivments!
    he never had a top class teammate!
    he did start with piquet at benetton but he was passed it by that stage!
    look at senna! he beat prost in what was regarded as prosts own team at the time!

  23. Well, to say that “taints” Schumi’s career is a bit harsh. I never used to like him but at some point a couple of years ago I realised that I was lucky to watch one of the all time greats of racing. That he never had a top class teammate and beat him is an achievement that he simply doesn’t have, Senna of course managed that, but it doesn’t really taint his career…

  24. Schumacher’s ultimate achievement off the track was building a team that was completely focused and dedicated to him. And he put in the work to earn that commitment. Unparalleled in motorsport? Maybe, which is why Lewis (or anyone else for that matter) will never reach the same level of achievements, regardless of the mad man’s predictions.

  25. One of Alonso requests during the season was he didn’t want his set-up data shared with Hamilton. After his distant finish at Brazil he remarked, “I just drove what they gave me”………….
    I might read into this that Alonso did NOT get his request, perhaps Ron Dennis was trying to keep the cars “equal” but let’s face it Hamilton was long term family, Alonso was an outsider taken in, equal cars maybe but equal mates, I think not!

  26. I don’t think by ‘equal’ they mean that both cars start the race with the same set-up. But I would expect each driver was not allowed to hide developments or knowledge from the other, which would not be in the team’s best interests.

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