London: Pedro de la Rosa will return to Formula One in 2012 at the age of 41 after signing a two-year deal to drive for Spanish-based HRT.
The Spanish veteran, a McLaren reserve who raced for Sauber in Canada this year as a stand-in for unwell Mexican rookie Sergio Perez, will be the second oldest driver on the grid after Mercedes`s Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher turns 43 in January while Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, 40 next May, is still hoping to stay at Williams and race on for a 20th season in what would be a trio of F1 40-somethings.
"This is a very important step in my sporting career and one of the most considered ones I`ve taken," De la Rosa said in a statement issued by HRT Monday.
"I`m at a very good stage in terms of maturity and am prepared to take on this challenge which motivates me hugely.”
"I`m here to work hard, with modesty and humility, accepting where we are now but keeping in mind where we want to be in two years time," added the driver.
HRT will be De la Rosa`s fifth team in Formula One after starting out with Arrows in 1999. He has also raced for Jaguar, McLaren and Sauber.
His best result was with McLaren in 2006 when he finished second in Hungary -- his only podium placing in 86 starts.
HRT have yet to come close to scoring a point since their debut in 2010 and, always on the look out for sponsorship, have taken steps recently to emphasise their position as the sole Spanish team even if Ferrari`s double world champion Fernando Alonso always grabs the headlines.
De la Rosa`s arrival immediately triggered media speculation the Valencia-based team would also have a prominent Spanish sponsor in 2012.
"The team`s objective has always been to reinforce itself in every aspect: economically, technically and in a sporting aspect," said HRT principal Colin Kolles.
"The addition of Pedro de la Rosa for next year will be a fundamental foundation in the development of our project."
Taken over by Spain`s Thesan Capital in July, HRT have appointed former Minardi grand prix driver Luis Perez-Sala as a sports adviser.
McLaren congratulated their "archetypal team player" on his move, saying he was a big motivational presence who would be missed in the team.
"Pedro`s contribution ... has been fantastically valuable -- perhaps even more valuable than may be apparent to outsiders," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
"As a test driver he`s been extraordinarily hard-working, on track and, latterly more often, in our simulator and his feedback has been reliable and expert."
HRT`s current race drivers are Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi and Australian Daniel Ricciardo, with Indian Narain Karthikeyan also in the line-up at selected races.
Ricciardo`s drive has been financed by Red Bull who may move him on to Toro Rosso while Liuzzi has said he has a contract for next year.
First Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, 10:30