Nyck de Vries will join the F1 grid full-time in 2023 with AlphaTauri, 28, after an impressive one-off performance for Williams at Monza this year.
Despite being over half the F1 grid, de Vries has gained a wealth of experience working as a reserve driver in other categories such as Formula 2 and Formula E, as well as F1 with Mercedes.
De la Rosa made his F1 debut with the Arrows in 1999 at the age of 28 and raced with Jaguar, McLaren and Sauber before completing his final season with HRT at the age of 41 in 2012.
The Spaniard said he spoke to a Formula 3 driver who had already wiped out his chances of getting into F1 because he thought he was too old at 20 – the Spaniard felt this was wrong.
“Being young doesn’t mean you’re better, faster or faster,” said de la Rosa, who is now Aston Martin’s ambassador.
“I’m always against the age label because I’ve suffered from it too. Sometimes, I’ve been on teams where they picked up another driver saying he might not be faster but he’s younger. And this is a killer.
“When I attend these meetings and they tell you this, nothing can be worse. They might say we think the other driver is faster than you, okay? But the age tag is terrible.
“So I’m of the opinion that being younger doesn’t necessarily mean faster.”
Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren MP4/21-Mercedes-Benz
De la Rosa went on to explain that he thinks he has a good chance of getting a McLaren seat for the 2008 season at the age of 36 following the team’s split with Fernando Alonso. He has worked with McLaren as a test and reserve driver since 2003, completing the second half of the 2006 season following the departure of Juan Pablo Montoya.
However, the team eventually signed on with Heikki Kovalainen, who is 10 years younger than de la Rosa. He secured two-year wins and two podiums at McLaren while struggling to keep up with Lewis Hamilton’s form before being relegated to make way for Jenson Button in 2010.
“Maybe it wasn’t so clear then, but that’s what they told me. [a possibility]yes,” said de la Rosa. “And if you look back at some of the photos, I even cut my hair very short! It didn’t work…
“I totally disagree [the decision]. But it’s your opinion versus other people. And actually fair enough, it was a 10-year gap.
“In a way, they’re right, because at the end of the day sometimes we think a young driver will improve, improve and get better over the years.” Some drivers do not recover.
“Some riders are already very good and stabilizing, some are lagging, some are progressing. So every athlete is different.”
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Pedro de la Rosa
Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
De la Rosa admitted that “it wouldn’t always cross my mind” what he could achieve in the McLaren seat.
“Sometimes I think I’m going to have the same struggle as Heikki,” he said.
Maybe I would have been better for the team. Could I beat Lewis? No way. But that was probably my strength, I knew I wasn’t trying to beat him.
“I think even before 2007, as one of the few people in the world other than Anthony, his father, and the people competing against Lewis, I was one of the only men who understood that he was special.
“I’ve tested with him, I’ve been in the simulator with him, I knew him from years ago. And I always told McLaren that this guy is very special.”